Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Stranger Things: (Real Life) Eighties Horror

Stranger Things
works a lot of well-tilled plots, familiar riffs from countless 80s horror and (predominantly) sci-fi films.
But it also taps into real-life horrors that were playing out in the media in the early 1980s; the highly-publicized abductions of children,  the rise of conspiracies over child trafficking, organized pedophilia and government coverups and 
the role of 24-hour TV news in feeding the fear over what seemed like a new plague descending over the country.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Uncle Sam's Secret Sorcerers VI: Exorcised

The Exorcist
is suddenly everywhere these days- there's now a theme-park attraction and FOX TV series based on the film. The Exorcist's new star expressed her hopes for new show on NBC's Today:

Geena Davis on ‘Exorcist’ TV series reboot: We want it to be as ‘life-scarring’ as original 
Geena Davis, who stars in the new television series reboot of the classic horror film “The Exorcist,” tells TODAY that the original movie was “life-scarring, and we’re trying to do that to a new generation.” She says she doesn’t have trouble sleeping after working on the show because “we’re just trying to make it so YOU can’t sleep.” 

What an interesting choice of words. What exactly does that mean? What exactly do the producers intend to achieve here?

"Life-scarring", she says. A slip of the tongue? Hyperbole? Or a mission statement? 

The trailer isn't giving much away. It looks like more Hollywood folk-demonology with a heavy dose of telegenic Catholic ritualism. But that's been a proven audience-repellent in the past. What exactly do they hope to achieve this time?

"Life-scarring." Huh.

Do I need to remind you that Geena Davis played a mind-controlled CIA assassin involved in a false-flag terror operation in The Long Kiss Goodnight?

Probably not.

The Exorcist joins Lucifer, FOX's buddy-cop mangling of the Vertigo Comics series (yes, I said buddy-cop), based in Neil Gaiman's Endless Universe, as an apparent anchor for a newly Satan-centric fall lineup.

Lucifer is based in Neil Gaiman's Endless Universe, unlike his Books of Magic series, which Harry Potter bears absolutely no resemblance to at all, so don't bring it up again.* 

Based on the video taken there I can't exactly say the Exorcist maze is 'life-scarring', but the movie doesn't seem so traumatizing in the cold light of day either. Which brings us to our next update...

In the previous installment we looked at the Exorcist phenomenon, and the extraordinary reactions to the film during its initial theatrical release. This is no small thing- it was a major news story at the time and papers and reports have since been written studying the film and its effects.

What many academics may overlook is William Peter Blatty's work as a Psychological Warfare expert for the military, and his subsequent work as a propagandist for the USIA.

Remember that the film was released during a very troubled time; the US was losing the war in Southeast Asia (which had spread to Cambodia and Laos), wars between Israel and its neighbors triggered an oil price war that caused major gasoline shortages in the US, the country was on the verge of a constitutional crisis as a result of the Watergate scandal and the peace and love vibes of the Sixties had darkened considerably as the drugs got cheaper and nastier.

Many planners in the Pentagon felt the question of a hot war with Russia or China was a question of when, not if. 

Given the fact that far worse human experimentation took place in far more placid times, it's not hard to conceive of a blockbuster film being used to roadtest some of the latest silent weapons for quiet wars. 

The range of effects that The Exorcist seemed to produce in its initial run sound very much like the result of sonic weaponry, in this case the use of infrasound.

From an article entitled 'The psychoacoustic effect of infrasonic, sonic and ultrasonic frequencies within non-lethal military warfare techniques':

The term ‘infrasound’ defines itself as the inaudible frequency range below the human bandwidth of around 20Hz...Beyond the use of infrasound detection, this frequency range, of which is inaudible to us, has been researched throughout the decades to investigate it’s effects on the human body. One of which is it’s application to military usage.

Throughout the 20th and 21st century, there has been a vast amount of research collected and interest gained in the use of non-lethal weapons (NLW), which are intended to immobilise or impair targets without causing permanent or severe damage to the human body.
As technologies have developed, it’s apparent that military bodies within the world seek to create weapons resulting in “war’s without death” (Scott & Monitor, 2010). 
And the effects of these weapons seem to sync up quite nicely with the symptoms many viewers of The Exorcist complained of during its first release:
Exposure to levels above 80db between 0.5Hz and 10Hz causing these possible vibrational movements within the ear’s functions, are said to cause psychological changes such as fear, sorrow, depression, anxiety, nausea, chest pressure and hallucinations (ECRIP, 2008). 
It is the result of this effect in the middle ear, that (Goodman, 2010 p. 18) cites as being discovered by military personnel during World War 1 and World War 2.
When dealing with topics like MKULTRA and MKOFTEN it truly is a question of the Blind Men and the Elephant, seeing that so much of the original documentation was destroyed.

But given the fact that The Exorcist was released in 1973, we have a smoking gun on the field testing of psychoacoustic weapons- and their intended emotional and psychological effects- that very same year. 

The effect of emotional and psychological change as a result of infrasonic exposure can later be found during the second Indochina war. In 1973, The United States deployed the Urban Funk Campaign, a psychoacoustic attack during the war with the intention of altering mental states of their enemies (Goodman, 2010). 
The device utilised both infrasonic and ultrasonic frequencies, which emitted high decibel oscillations from a mounted helicopter onto the Vietnamese ground troops (Toffler, Alvin, & Toffler, 1995).  
Interesting "coincidence", don't you think?

It's interesting to note once again that William Peter Blatty's next major project would be The Ninth Configuration, a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest-type character study set in a military hospital for patients suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The studio would make its own Exorcist sequel in 1977, which would go down in cinematic history as one of the worst movies ever made, and certainly the worst sequel ever produced. 

Blatty would write a sequel to The Exorcist titled Legion, which he intended to make into a film with William Friedkin. However, the two fell out over creative differences and Blatty would direct the film, retitled The Exorcist III, himself.

An exorcism scene would be tacked onto the last act of the film at the studio's insistence. The movie wasn't a hit, but would become a cult classic on video.

And strangely enough, Legion/Exorcist III would bring us straight back into the netherworld of MKOFTEN. Allegedly.

In this case, we'd revisit the media sensation around the Zodiac Killer:

In the film Police Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) has been haunted by the death of his friend Father Damien Karras. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the exorcism that claimed the priest’s life, Kinderman’s world is once again shattered when a boy is found decapitated and savagely crucified.  
It’s just the beginning of a nightmare series of bizarre religious murders which bear the hallmarks of the infamous Gemini Killer… who died in the electric chair fifteen years ago. 
In discussing the Zodiac case, I floated the suggestion that perhaps there wasn't a Zodiac Killer, but a team of killers, given that there are so many dedicated researchers convinced that different suspects were each the Zodiac.

In his sequel, Blatty seems to pick up that particular ball and run with it.

Telling tales out of school?

 In LEGION, which picks up 12 years after the events of THE EXORCIST, Kinderman is back. He’s investigating a series of killings that parallel those of the long dead “Gemini” killer who terrorized San Francisco years earlier. 
The only thing is, the recent killings appear to have been committed by several different people, even though the murders all bear remarkably similar markings and patterns…almost as if the perpetrators were demonically possessed by the spirit of the Gemini killer. 
This all leads Kinderman to a mental patient locked up in a secluded wing of a local institution, and a supernatural confrontation twelve years in the making. 
Institutions again. Blatty wrote about them quite a bit. Did he have a lot of experience in them? I've always gotten an MKULTRA vibe out of Ninth Configuration, with its hallucinations and alternate realities, so I can't help but wonder what kind of work Blatty actualy did in the Psychological Warfare unit.

As Legion story goes on, we segue from the Zodiac to the Son of Sam killings, exploring the concepts of demonic possession that David Berkowitz would claim were the animating force in the shootings:

 The Gemini's spiritual "master", who had possessed the girl Regan MacNeil, was furious at being pushed out of the child's body and is exacting its revenge by putting the soul of the Gemini Killer into the body of Father Karras. Each evening, the soul of the Gemini leaves the body of Karras and possesses the elderly people with senile dementia elsewhere in the hospital and uses them to commit the murders.  
Like Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac wasn't a particularly prodigious serial killer but made a major impression on the public through his/their expert manipulation of the news media, a trick that the Son of Sam would pick up on a few years later.

And claims that the Process Church- or at least a Process spinoff- were involved in the Son of Sam slayings would add a terrifying hint of conspiracy, that much worse was to come.

The Process would resurface in a strange fashion in the New York metropolitan area a few years after the Son of Sam killings, with the so-called Cropsey abductions (and in one case at least, abduction and murder), which would haunt the streets of Staten Island in 1980s. 

As with both the Zodiac and the Son of Sam, Andre Rand, the culprit arrested for the Cropsey crimes- and convicted for two of the abductions- liked to write cryptic letters (if you have a Netflix account, do watch the Cropsey documentary), even going so far as to write a collective valentine to the "mothers of Staten Island", filled with unsubtle intimations of early death:
Printed in a meticulous, draftsman-like hand on ruler-drawn lines, Rand, 67, wished a "Happy Mother's Day" to "all the ladies on Staten Island who supported 'prosecutorial vindictiveness' against an innocent person!" 
"Should I become a millionaire, it would be my true nature to grant all of you with each, an envelope full of seeds, to plant and cultivate a rosebush (shrub) that produces roses every season, as a token of my heartfelt forgiveness (year after year), rather than bouquets of rosebuds which blossoms and shortly dies-out," wrote the drifter and one-time handyman. 
"It is only a tiny 'rosebud' -- A flower of God's design; But I cannot unfold the petals with these clumsy hands of mine," Rand wrote. "The secret of unfolding flowers is not know to such as I -- The flower, only the "Spirit of God" opens, in my hands would fade and die.

I  get the strong impression that Rand is taunting his readers- particularly law enforcement -with these letters of his, which seem embedded with clues (the random Bible passages especially), perhaps as to where his victims are buried.

I especially get that vibe with the letters he sent to the makers of the Cropsey documentary, and generally get a heavy Zodiac vibe from the guy. 

In a strange twist, a local Catholic mystic would write to police claiming that a sect of the Process Church were involved in the abductions. There would be evidence of cult activity around the area but nothing would emerge publicly as to its connection to the crimes.

However, there would be some evidence emerged that the one victim that had been found may have been moved to her burial site from another location.

By sheer dint of coincidence, Process leader Robert De Grimston had moved to Staten Island in the early 80s and was living there during the Cropsey abductions. 

Staten Island. What a fascinating path that man has traveled.

And such bad luck to be in the midst of so much mischief and mayhem.

The Cropsey film is rife with hints of cultic involvement - particularly from law enforcement- but the producers never bother to follow up on them. They seem to be of that mindset that such things are not possible. Media conditioning is a powerful thing.

A particularly horrific hospital for the severely mentally-handicapped, euphemistically named Willowbrook State School, enters the story as well. In fact, it plays a very crucial part in the entire Cropsey drama.

The appallingly-inhuman abuse and neglect at Willowbrook would be exposed by a young and ambitious reporter named Geraldo Rivera. The outrage would lead to major reforms in the entire care system for the severely handicapped.

But not before patients at Willowbrook would be intentionally injected with the hepatitis virus during human experimentation trials in the 50s and 60s.

Not too long after the Cropsey abductions a new Zodiac Killer would emerge in New York:
As the notorious "Zodiac," Heriberto Seda, a ponytailed Bible quoting oddball, had to kill his victims because, "they were bad. They were evil people". 
He terrorized New York City with two crime sprees -- a short summer ordeal in 1990 and a prolonged one spanning from 1992 to 1993 -- that left three dead and five wounded. 
A consummate media whore, Heriberto picked his moniker from the elusive "Zodiac Killer" who stalked San Francisco between 1966 and 1974 and claimed to have killed more than 37 people. He also sent letters to the police boasting of a demented plot to slaughter people purposefully selected by their astrological sign, one for each of the dozen signs. At first, the police thought it was a hoax. 
On March 8, 1990, he proved them wrong. 
 Then began a reign of terror that lasted for several years, and Seda shot several more victims, selected by their astrological signs. Like the original Zodiac- and like Son of Sam- Seda taunted the press with cryptic letters:
It was not until a letter sent to The New York Post in August of 1994 that these attacks were linked to the "Zodiac" rampage of 1990. At first authorities were dubious that the letter was from the same attacker. However police concluded that it was not a hoax but were unsure if it was written by the same person or someone who knew of the assaults.
What a strange mixture, a killer who combined Biblical moralism and occult symbolism. Now where have I heard about that particular combination before?

Funny old thing, though- the Process moves from London to San Francisco- with stops in between such as New Orleans- and a couple years later a 'Zodiac Killer' pops up in the Bay Area. 

Fast forward a couple decades and DeGrimston moves to the outer boroughs of New York and lo and behold, another Zodiac Killer pops up there. I'll tell you, trouble followed that guy around like a lost dog.

Bonus factoid: the program launched to catch the new Zodiac was called "Operation Watchdog."

Sync Log Epilog: A couple days after I posted the piece on The Exorcist movie, news came that the Vatican's legendary exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth had passed away at the age of 91.  Amorth, who claimed to have had performed tens of thousands of exorcisms, was very much an old school kind of Catholic:
Modern and popular cultures are permeated with spiritualistic and possibly demonic influences, he proclaimed, pointing to the “Harry Potter" novels by J.K. Rowling. He criticized how in the novels the author falsely makes a distinction between black and white magic (bad and good magic), which “does not exist because magic is always a turn to the devil. By reading ‘Harry Potter,’ a young child will be drawn into magic and from there it is a simple step to Satanism and the Devil,” he said.   
(Amorth) also indicated yoga as a step to Satanism. He reasoned that because it leads to the practice of Hinduism, “and all eastern religions are based on the false belief in reincarnation,” then “practicing yoga is satanic; it leads to evil just like reading ‘Harry Potter.’”

NEXT: Stranger Things and the Johnny Gosch Enigma. Real Eighties Horror.

And don't ask about a settlement because no such thing exists. And if it did it was quite sizable, thank you very much. It's entirely coincidental that Lucifer scribe Mike Carey turned around and created The Unwritten, an unapologetic Harry Potter analog-slash-parody.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Uncle Sam's Secret Sorcerers V

In 1969, screenwriter and novelist William Peter Blatty began work on a new piece of fiction. His previous book, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane!, wrestled with existential issues of life and faith and was set in a military-operated mental institution (it would be made into a film in 1980, retitled The Ninth Configuration). There was more than a vague whiff of MK-ULTRA about the project.

With Satan in particular and diabolism in general infecting the atmosphere (especially in the wake of the media frenzy over Anton LaVey, Charles Manson and the hit film Rosemary's Baby), Blatty set about to fictionalizing a case he had heard about from a Jesuit priest during his school days at Georgetown University:
Recent investigative research by freelance journalist Mark Opsasnick indicates that Blatty's novel was based on an actual 1949 exorcism of a young boy from Cottage City, Maryland, whom Opsasnick refers to using the pseudonyms Robbie Mannheim and Roland Doe. The boy was sent to his relative's home on Roanoke Drive in St. Louis where most of the exorcism took place.
Blatty had a specific agenda in mind in the creation of The Exorcist. He intended it as a work of evangelism:
“It’s an argument for God,” he says today of the novel more often considered an entertainment. “I intended it to be an apostolic work, to help people in their faith. Because I thoroughly believed in the authenticity and validity of that particular event."
If so, it's a very strange argument. God doesn't seem to be around very much in the novel and less so in the film.

But with "God is Dead" theology a hot topic in seminary dorms and the Second Vatican Council reforms draining the church of its ancient mystery, many felt that the issue of existential evil was no longer being addressed by contemporary religion. Whether in response to the popularity of Blatty's novel or not, the Pope himself chose to tackle this topic of evil:
(I)n November 1972, Pope Paul VI urged Catholics to return to the study of the Devil: ‘Evil is not merely a lack of something, but an effective agent, a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting. A terrible reality...’ 

One thing a lot of fans of The Exorcist may not realize is the character of "Chris MacNeil" is based on a real person too, in this case the actress and New Age figurehead Shirley MacLaine (oh, the irony). And the character of Regan may or may not be based on MacLaine's daughter Sachi, depending on whose story you believe. 

And despite MacLaine's claims that she was a late-comer to the New Age-- she'd write of her alleged "conversion" in her 1983 book Out on a Limb-- Sachi claims that her mother was already well-immersed in esotericism in the late 1960s- as was William Peter Blatty:
Every summer, Sachi visits her famous mother Shirley MacLaine in Los Angeles. Shirley is already deeply immersed in exploring her spirituality, channelling spirits from here, there and everywhere: Tibet, Atlantis, Ancient Egypt, the lot. 
To relax, Shirley likes to invite William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, around to chat with the spirit world on a Ouija board.
Indeed, according to Sachi, MacLaine is prone to stretching the truth to its reasonable limits:
Sachi, who became an actress and is a mother of two, says Mac-Laine doesn't exactly lie in her books but engages in "artful stretches of the truth. With her, a simple trip to the supermarket becomes a search for spiritual enlightenment". 
When Sachi was 17 MacLaine informed her that her father was not Steve Parker but a mystery man named Paul. "Right now, he's in outer space," MacLaine told her. "He's on a mission for the government. A secret mission, sweetheart. All I know is, he's in the Pleiades. The Seven Sisters," she said, pointing to the stars. 
And Sachi claims her mother confided that: "Steve was created by the government. He's a clone."
Well, let's hope that's an exaggeration.

But apparently Blatty also modeled Chris MacNeil's vicious temper on MacLaine as well:
And MacLaine could be ferocious, claims Sachi. When she thought her daughter was lying, she allegedly locked Sachi in her room without food for three days.
MacLaine would later claim that the cover photo on the first edition hardcover of The Exorcist was a photo Blatty had taken of Sachi. 

MacLaine would turn down a role in the high-profile adaption of The Exorcist but instead would accept one in a low-budget knockoff released the year before the film came out. There's something very strange about this career move here but I can't quite put my finger on it yet. 


As fate would have it, The Exorcist didn't set the world afire when first released. 
According to Blatty, his book was initially a disaster. It was so bad that his publisher went so far as to treat him to a farewell lunch. But in the middle of lunch, Blatty got a call from The Dick Cavett Show. They had lost a guest at the last minute and wanted him to fill in. 
"I came out onstage, and Dick Cavett said, 'Well, Mr. Blatty I haven't read your book.' I said, 'Well, that's OK, so I'll tell you about it,' " he recalls. "I got to do a 41-minute monologue. That was it." 
The next week, Blatty picked up a copy of Time magazine at the airport and found that his book was No. 4 on the best-seller list. Not long after, it reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list — and it stayed there for 17 weeks.
Dick Cavett is one of these old time show business personalities whose apparent ubiquity totally mystified me when I was young. I could never quite work out why he was famous. He seemed to pop up all over television, but never struck me as being particularly talented or charismatic. But he always seemed able to land the plum gigs, regardless. Maybe he was a gas at parties.

Cavett would struggle as an actor, but was given a role in a production financed by the Army Signal Corps (who we've met time and again around these parts). Finally, he seemed to make his name as a talk show host when Watergate broke.

But he had enough of an audience to launch The Exorcist when it had been struggling. And the rest was history. (Strangely enough, Cavett began his career as a stage magician)


Up-and-coming director William Friedkin (The French Connection) was chosen to direct The Exorcist movie, which would star Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller and Max Von Sydow. Child actress Linda Blair beat out a small army of applicants for the role of Regan.

And expert opinion would be sought in order to ensure doctrinal accuracy. In fact there were a number of key consultants from the Society of Jesus involved in The Exorcist (Blatty himself was Jesuit-trained personnel), which is rather unusual for a secular film filled with such vulgarity and horror:
The project was sufficiently plausible for three Jesuits to give their services as technical advisors to the film; two of them, William O’Malley SJ and Thomas Bermingham SJ, even acted in it (playing Father Dyer, a friend of Karras, and the president of Georgetown University respectively).
The same attention to detail would apply to the production itself. Friedkin, another Hollywood young turk who peaked too early, was at the height of his powers as a filmmaker. It was his visual sophistication that sold a story that could otherwise have come off as extremely silly. The film still holds up today as a piece of cinema, thanks to his remarkably subtle yet insidiously creepy visual vocabulary:
The characters all live and remain in a state of mutual alienation. By failing to deliver emotional resolution, the film successfully keeps viewers ill at ease. The city in which the characters live is introduced as an emotional desert: the camera first cuts to Georgetown from the prologue amid desert ruins in Iraq, as sounds of dogs fighting and an evil screeching blend into what is clearly meant to be their modern equivalent, the traffic noise of a contemporary American city.
But perhaps it was too successful. Because The Exorcist would have the same effect on adult audiences that the matinee showings of Night of the Living Dead had on children.

And did so even before the film was released.
When William Friedkin’s The Exorcist was released back in December of 1973, audiences simply did not know how to handle it. They vomited. They fainted. They ran from the theater in terror. It was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, instantly immortalized as the scariest movie of all time. 
And actually, it achieved that status BEFORE it was even released.
The so-called "banned trailer" nearly sunk The Exorcist with theater owners before it even hit the streets. The trailer is more than a little misleading- a stark sequence of harshly strobed, high contrast images (that don't actually appear that way in the film), accompanied by a screeching soundtrack composed by Lalo Schifrin. The combined effect instills an immediate sense of alarm in the audience:
(T)his trailer literally made audiences sick when it was shown. It’s unclear if the sounds and images were simply upsetting or if the flashing images actually caused seizures in some viewers.  
The combined effect of the intense strobing, disturbing imagery and the music- undoubtedly played at very high volume- seems engineered to play on the brain waves of the viewer, if not alter the brain chemistry itself. It looks very much like the kind of thing you read about in MK-ULTRA horror stories.

In fact, it's not entirely dissimilar to this brainwashing reel from A Clockwork Orange.

And it seemed to have a powerful effect:
By March 1974, the film had sold 6 million tickets in the United States and was poised to sweep the world. At one level The Exorcist phenomenon was just a skilfully mounted spectacle, stretching the limits of a newly liberal Hollywood. Yet the scale of the reaction suggests that the film – like William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same name, and on which it was based – had hit a nerve.

The Exorcist touched on issues that were all too alive for the world of 1973. This was not a coincidence. It was more than a product of its time; it actively sought to shape that time.
If that was its intent, then it certainly succeeded:
(F)ans waited in lines that stretched around city blocks to catch the first screenings; some even tried using battering rams to force their way into theaters.
But many who made into the theaters would wish they hadn't:
Media alarm ranged from criticism of the relaxed ‘R’ certificate attached to the American release, to lurid accounts of viewers being driven to breakdowns and suicide. As a result, the film was picketed by some clerics...
Soon mental health professionals were being consulted with as to the film's effects on its viewers:
Many others who have seen the film experience nightmares, hysteria and an undefined, but nevertheless profound apprehension. “It is dangerous for people with weak ego control,” explains Dr. Vladimir Piskacek, a Manhattan sociologist and psychiatrist, “but it would not cause psychosis.” Small children may suffer from hallucinations after seeing The Exorcist, but Dr. Piskacek doubts that the film would permanently impair even an immature mind.

In fact, reaction to The Exorcist would become an even bigger story than the movie itself. Unlike the overblown, largely mythic reaction to Orson Welles' radio adaption of War of the Worlds, The Exorcist's effects on it audiences were real and widely documented. And would become the topic of later academic studies:
Following the distribution and release of the movie, "The "Exorcist," much publicity concerning the psychiatric hazards of the film was reported. Numerous cases of traumatic neurosis and even psychosis were supposedly noted. This report confirms the hypothesis that traumatic "cinema neurosis" can be precipitated by viewing the movie in previously unidentified psychiatric patients. 
This movie seems to be directly related to traumatic neurosis in susceptible people. Classical symptoms and disability were observed following viewing the movie. There are elements in the movie, such as possession with resultant loss of impulse control, that are likely to threaten people with similar problems, and to exceed their "stimulus barrier."  Cinematic neurosis following "The Exorcist",  Bozzuto, JC.
But was it simply the film itself? More and more work is being done on the psychological effects of trauma experienced through recorded media on the brain. Despite the usual protests from filmmakers and their apologists, the parade of increasingly explicit and sadistic gore in horror films that followed in the wake of Night of the Living Dead had measurable psychologic effects, particularly on borderline personalities.

But curiously, later audiences (the film would enjoy a number of revivals) wouldn't experience the same reaction to The Exorcist. Were they simply jaded?

Or was there something else at work, something encoded or embedded into the film, that created such hysteria?

Certainly the trailer is not only unusual, but it seems to be somehow weaponized. Was this intentional? And were similar- yet more subtle- techniques used in the original release of the film? It's worth making note of this story:
At one showing, a woman was so frightened she passed out in the theater and broke her jaw when she fell. She later sued the filmmakers suggesting that subliminal messages caused the accident. 
Warner Brothers settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Now why would they do a thing like that?

Probably because there were subliminal images encoded into The Exorcist. Several of them. And it wasn't just imagery, it was also sound.
The terrified squealing of pigs being slaughtered was mixed subtly into the sound track. The buzzing sound of angry, agitated bees wove in and out of scenes throughout the film.
That's what we've been told about, or has been discovered by fans. What don't we know about?

Was The Exorcist in fact a movie or an experiment?

This is probably a good time to look a bit more closely into William Peter Blatty's background. It's very...interesting:
(Blatty) interviewed with the FBI and the CIA, he says, but didn’t get far because the sheer number of address changes before college rendered a background check impossible.

He enlisted in the Air Force...He spent four years in uniform, landing in the Psychological Warfare Division, where his bilingual skills made him valuable.

By the mid-’50s, Blatty was stationed in Beirut as an editor for the US Information Agency. 

"Psychological Warfare."


The thing that's always bothered me about The Exorcist-- although I recognize what a well-written story and well-made film it is-- is how it portrays the nature of Good and Evil.

Ask yourself, who seems like the winner in the battle between Pazuzu (the possessing demon) and pretty much everyone else?

Good seems pretty weak and impotent in the face of Evil, as we see both exorcists easily killed by Pazuzu, who seems to vacate Regan more out of simple boredom than anything the priests had actually done. The priests and the doctors - Faith and Science- seem very much like helpless bystanders in the presence of this demon, who can pretty much do whatever the fuck he wants.

Quite an advertisement for demons, if you really get down to it.

Statue of Pazuzu installed at London's ICA:
There's some comforting symbolism for you

And like so many of these landmark horror films, The Exorcist comes complete with its own curse:
Shooting was delayed after the set caught fire destroying what was supposed to be the MacNeil’s home. During filming, actress Ellen Burstyn, who played Reagan’s mother, was actually injured when the possessed Reagan throws her to the ground.   
Actors Jack MacGowran, and Vasiliki Maliaros both died while the film was in post-production. What makes their deaths strange is that their characters died in the film as well. 
Other deaths that occurred during the filming of THE EXORCIST include Linda Blair’s grandfather and Max Von Sydow’s brother, who died on Max’s first day of shooting…the son of Jason Miller who played Father Damien Karras, was nearly killed when a motorcycle hit him… after the film’s release, Linda received so many death threats that the studio had to hire bodyguards to escort her for the next six month… 
Mercedes McCambridge, who played the demonic voice of Pazuzu, was the victim of a horrific tragedy when her son murdered his wife and children before taking his own life. 

William Friedkin would never equal the artistic or commercial heights he reached in The Exorcist. His next film, Sorcerer, went directly up against Star Wars and was virtually ignored. Cruising, an Al Pacino vehicle about a serial killer stalking Greenwich Village's gay S/M underground, would run into a brick wall of protests, bad reviews and disappointing box office.

He'd survive a heart attack in 1981 but his career as an A-list director was finished.

So with all of this death, trauma and manipulation in The Exorcist's jacket, what could you possibly do for an encore?

Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answers to.
At Universal Orlando Resort, guests will see, hear, feel – and even smell – every iconic levitating, head-spinning, vomit-wrenching, skin-crawling moment from the film. 
They’ll be paralyzed with fear as they witness the power of the supernatural, scream uncontrollably as they become part of Regan MacNeil’s possession and run in terror as they try to escape the horrific battle between innocence and evil. 
Universal Studios Hollywood’s “The Exorcist” maze will resonate as a real life interpretation of the demonic film, daring “Halloween Horror Nights’” guests to live the nightmare experienced by a tortured Regan and her determined mother. 
The maze will recreate some of the film’s most haunting scenes, ushering guests into its unparalleled terror as if their very souls were possessed by the devil.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Uncle Sam's Secret Sorcerers IV

By 1969, Hell had well and truly broken loose in America. 

A deeply-divisive and increasingly futile war, assassinations and concurrent riots that crippled major cities, widespread violence at the Democratic National Convention and an growing epidemic of hard drugs like speed and heroin were leading the country to the tipping point.*

And increasingly, seemingly random and horrific acts of violence from "serial" and "spree" killers would fill the headlines. 

Pop culture would be increasingly dominated by themes of horror, black magic and Satanism, everything from movies to bestselling fiction to television and to comic books. At the same time Dispensationalist Apocalypticism would rise from the Fundamentalist margins into the mainstream, with best-sellers like Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth. 

It was as if the entire country had fallen under a particularly malefic spell. Largely coinciding, strangely enough, with the creation of Project MK-OFTEN.


Lifetime convict Charles Manson quit San Francisco and made his way down the coast and eventually hooked up with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, who set up recording sessions for Charlie with producer Terry Melcher. Soon, stars like Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young were coming around to check out this crazy street-freak and his largely-improvised song-poems.

Wilson called Manson "the Wizard."

Manson picked up an entourage along the way, mostly young, fucked-up street kids, but ran into the same hassles in LA that hippies were facing in San Francisco. Manson somehow finagled a gig for himself and his "Family" at the Spahn Movie Ranch, where Hollywood producers used to shoot Westerns. More recently, TV shows like Gunsmoke had used it before it fell into disrepair.

Interesting place for a drifting ex-con and his street-people friends to crash. 

Coincidentally, Manson's alleged associates and San Francisco neighbors, the Process Church of the Final Judgement, would open a chapter in Los Angeles shortly after Manson and his entourage arrived in the area. Even more coincidentally, the Process would end up moving in some of the same circles as Manson and would, like Manson, also try to recruit Terry Melcher to their cause.

According to Adam Gorightly, the Process "stayed in public view until a few days after Robert Kennedy’s assassination on June 5, 1968, after which they dropped mysteriously from sight."

Sharon Tate would travel to England in 1965 to appear in Eye of the Devil, one of many occult thrillers produced in the 1960s and a kind of prototype for The Wicker Man.

She won the role in a very Rosemary's Baby-like fashion- actress Kim Novak had originally won the part but fell from a horse and couldn't complete the film. Tate was hired to re-film her scenes.

Alex and Maxine Sanders, celebrity witches and creators of "Alexandrian Wicca", were hired on as technical advisers for Eye. Make note of this detail.

One can't help but wonder if Tate fell under some sorcerer's spell while in England. Her short life would thereafter be filled with darkness and ill omen.

Tate with the Sanders

The darkness would spread to the Polanskis' social circle in Hollywood.

Jay Sebring was a celebrity hairstylist and a friend of the Polanskis. He would move into a house once owned by the famously doomed Hollywood couple, Paul Bern and Jean Harlow:
Bern met actress Jean Harlow shortly before the premiere of Hell's Angels in 1930...The two struck up a friendship and eventually began dating. They announced their engagement in June 1932 and married on July 2, 1932.

Two months after marrying Jean Harlow, on September 5, Bern was found dead from a gunshot to the head in their home on Easton Drive in Beverly Hills, California. The coroner ruled his death a suicide. 
Harlow died of kidney failure during the filming of Saratoga in 1937 at the age of 26.  
(The body Bern's common-law wife Dorothy Millette) was found in the Sacramento River two days after Bern's death. It was later determined that she had committed suicide by jumping from the Delta King steamboat.
In the November 1960 issue of Playboy, screenwriter Ben Hecht questioned the official verdict of Bern's death, causing renewed interest in the case. Hecht suggested that Bern was murdered by an unnamed woman and that the investigation into Bern's death was a "suicide whitewash".  
The sad tale was also chronicled by Kenneth Anger in Hollywood Babylon. But the house would see more tragedy before Sebring moved in:
(Sebring) loved the house but was always concerned about the fact that it was supposed to be “jinxed”. He knew the stories about Paul Bern’s death but he also learned that two people had drowned in the swimming pool as well.  
A subsequently notorious event in 1966 would transpire when Tate stayed over with Sebring one night.
Unable to sleep, she lay awake in Jay’s room with all the lights on. She was very uncomfortable, although she couldn’t explain why. She felt “funny”...and was frightened by every little sound that she heard. 
As it happened, she had good reason to be:
Suddenly, a person that she described as a “creepy little man” came into the bedroom! She was sure that this man was Paul Bern. The man ignored her though and wandered about the room, apparently looking for something. Sharon put on her robe and hurried out of the bedroom.
Things then went from frightening to terrifying:
Sharon started down the stairs but halfway down them, froze in shock. There was a figure tied to the staircase posts at the bottom of the steps. She couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. However, she could clearly see that the figure’s throat had been cut. Then, the apparition vanished.

Tate- and Polanski- would have another disturbing encounter, this time with dogs allegedly belonging to the Process Church, who were reportedly in the neighborhood as part of an estate-cleaning deal they arranged with an LA real estate baron:
...the Polanski’s had agreed to take care of Patty Duke’s sheep dog, and the dog had a habit of getting loose. On the night of the party, the sheep dog once again bounded away, and Roman Polanski went after it. 
Somewhere down the hill, Polanski encountered a group of vicious German Shepherds belonging to—as Sanders phrased it after a libel suit by DeGrimston—”English occultists who were in America to promote the end of the world.” Somehow, during his attempt to retrieve Patty Duke’s pooch, Polanski got locked in a garage trying to escape the cult’s dog pack, and managed to break a rear window out and escape up the hillside.
The omens kept on coming. Shortly before her death- and while pregnant- Tate had an affair with an actor named Christopher Jones. Jones later recalled a disturbing encounter with the actress:
"One night we went to visit the Trevi Fountain, and I looked at her and had the strongest feeling she was going to die."Another time I was looking over at her and asking her what she was thinking about, and she suddenly came out with: 'The Devil is beautiful. Most people think he's ugly, but he's not.'" 
I thought it weird at the time but Roman had just done the movie Rosemary's Baby so I related it to that."I told her she shouldn't say things like that because it made me nervous."
Strangely, Jones would have another disturbing experience with an actress the following year while filming a movie in Ireland:
Jones was cast by director David Lean in Ryan's Daughter (1970). … Unknown to Christopher, he was drugged during his filming of Ryan's Daughter by Sarah Miles ...which caused Christopher to believe he was having a breakdown. Jones also was involved in a car crash, not knowing he had been drugged. The director and producers never informed him of the drugging.
What the hell was wrong with these people? Seriously.
In any event, the Polanskis were allegedly part of a very wild party scene, and Tate was dragged into some rather sordid activity by Polanski:
Polanski had the professional and personal power Sharon craved and thus she was drawn into a world of frequent humiliations, subjected to his sexual proclivities that included drugs, affairs, orgies and home sex videos he shared with friends.
The scene at Cielo Drive would get very extreme, even by Hollywood standards.  The Daily Mail described it as "a revolving door with celebrities dropping by, unknown people flitting in and out, and orgies fueled by cocaine and hallucinogens like mescaline."

From Adam Gorightly's book The Shadow Over Santa Susana
"In Doris Day: Her Own Story, Terry Melcher was quoted that the 'murders had something to do with the weird film Polanski had made, and the equally weird people who were hanging around the house. I knew they had been making a lot of homemade sadomasochistic-porno movies there with quite a few recognizable Hollywood faces in them. 
The reason I knew was that I had gone out with a girl named Michelle Phillips, one of the Mamas and Papas, whose ex-husband, john Phillips, was the leader of the group. Michelle told me she and John had dinner one night, to discuss maybe getting back together, and afterwards he had taken her up to visit the Polanskis in my old house. Michelle said that when they arrived there, everyone in the house was busy filming an orgy and that Sharon Tate was part of it."

Sammy Davis, Jr.- who'd have his own flirtations with the dark side- later said of the Cielo Drive scene:  “Everyone there had at at one time or another been into Satanism.”  

Were the activities in this circle being filmed for blackmail purposes? Were they being filmed for private collectors? Did the whole scene just too far out of hand? Gorightly:
During follow-up investigations at the Polanski residence, police discovered several films and videotapes in the main bedroom closet. Some of these films, it has been rumored, involved an elite underground Hollywood group who swapped smut of each other...
There'd be even darker rumors about the scene and the films being made there:
Many years after the Tate/LaBianca murders, Manson told an interviewer, "Don't you think those people deserved to die?... They were involved in kiddie porn." Like Manson's Hollywood Star revelations, one must wonder about these allegations of Polanski making money from kiddie porn, as Charlie's claims pre-date Polanski's late 1977 rape case of an under-aged girl. 
Were these films somehow linked to the murders? Stories would later emerge that Manson and right-hand man Tex Watson hired themselves and the Family out as a murder-for-hire ring.

Before the murders, Manson was seen on walkthrough in the Cielo Drive property, as if casing it out. Was someone worried about their face appearing in one of those films?
At one point, two reporters approached the Manson defense team informing them that certain individuals in Hollywood were worried that the case might cause a film industry scandal. The reporters said that lots of porno -many of the hand-held, home-made variety -had been discovered during the Tate murder investigation, and that many influential people had put in pleas to the district attorney to lower the charge against Manson to manslaughter, as a way to keep him quiet.
Yet Manson was reportedly still preaching his race-war apocalypse, at least according to some of the testimony that emerged during the trial. One account had it that he took matters into his own hands, significantly with a drug-dealer:
By June, Manson was telling the Family they might have to show blacks how to start "Helter Skelter". When Manson tasked Watson with obtaining money supposedly intended to help the Family prepare for the conflict, Watson defrauded a black drug dealer named Bernard "Lotsapoppa" Crowe. Crowe responded with a threat to wipe out everyone at Spahn Ranch. Manson countered on July 1, 1969, by shooting Crowe at his Hollywood apartment. 
Drugs would play a role in the killing of Gary Hinman by Bobby Beausoleil, apparently ordered by Manson as another act in the Helter Skelter ritual (the killing was supposed to blamed on Black Panthers in Manson's tortured logic).

Manson was himself acting on the orders of the Straight Satans outlaw biker gang (remember Harlow and Bern and Hell's Angels?), who felt that Hinman had burned them with a bad batch of drugs.

Beausoleil was simply ordered to get the Satans' money back from Hinman, to the amount of $1000, but was ordered to kill him when Hinman said he didn't have the cash.

Strangely-- and synchronistically-- a parallel event would be unfolding at Cielo Drive, just a few days before Watson and his accomplices showed up to murder Sharon Tate and her friends:
 A dope dealer from Canada was punished for selling Jay Sebring bad dope. According to actor Dennis Hopper, twenty-five people were invited to watch the dealer get whipped and to participate in the whipping. They videotaped the event, as they had other events involving—again, according to Hopper—“sadism, masochism and bestiality.”   
Hopper claims that LA police informed him about some of this information. The tapes have never surfaced, but rumors in the Hollywood underground have always insisted that they exist...According to Hopper, the public humiliation of the dealer took place three days before the murders at Cielo Drive, which would make it on or about August 5th. 
The murders at Cielo Drive shocked Hollywood (Manson: "Write something witchy" in the victims' blood), followed by the murders of the LaBiancas. Later, rumors would circulate that Rosemary LaBianca had been involved in meth dealing. 

Peter Levenda writes in Sinister Forces:
Maury Terry raises an important point in his observation of the killings, one which cannot be easily ignored: if Helter Skelter was the true motive, then why did the killings stop after La Bianca?  
There was no evidence linking the Manson clan to any of the killings; they were still in the clear on Tate and La Bianca, although Bobby Beausoleil had been picked up for the Hinman murder. They could have continued their Helter Skelter murder spree much longer before being stopped. Why only that one weekend in August? Why only the five victims at the Tate house (six, if you count Sharon Tate’s unborn son) and two at La Bianca? 
The only reason that makes sense is that both murders were contract hits, and that Manson dressed it up in Helter Skelter for the benefit of his young female assassins...Helter Skelter was Manson’s “program” for the brainwashed murderers; it provided a context, and it also influenced their choice of bloody graffiti at each scene...

But another explanation would surface following the slayings:
Hippie Commune Ruled By ‘Black Magic’
Friday, December 5th, 1969

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 5 – “Black magic” …“He believes that he, and all human beings, are God” … “There is no crime, there is no sin” … “The women were the key to everything.”
Three friends of Charles M. Manson used those words Thursday to describe him and the way they say he ruled a clan of nomadic hippie-types on a commune near Death Valley. 
Prosecutors say they will seek an indictment charging Manson, 36, with conspiracy to commit murder. Several members of his clan are accused of slaying actress Sharon Tate and six others. 
The three friends—miner Paul Crockett, 50; guitar player Paul Watkins, 19; and Brooks Poston, 21—gave their descriptions in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. 
“The whole thing was held together by black magic,” said Watkins, who has followed Manson since they met two years ago in the Haight-Ashbury district, then the hippie Haven in San Francisco. 
“You don’t believe it? Well, it really exists, and it is powerful,” Watkins said. 
“He (Manson) believes that he, and all human beings, are God and the devil at the same time. He believes all human beings are part of each other,” said Poston, a Manson follower for two years. 
And more recently another theory for the Tate slaughter would surface, allegedly based on a report by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. In an article on Ed Sanders' book on Sharon Tate:
(O)ne loose thread in the story is the role of a mysterious English satanic cult that was active in LA in those years. 
The author learned new details after working with LA private investigator Larry Larsen, a former LA County deputy who assisted the investigation into the death of Robert F. Kennedy. 
Larsen had been informed through associates that the English satanic group had recruited Charles Manson to murder Tate because of information she had learned about RFK's assassination. 
The contention is that members of the English cult had invited Sirhan Sirhan to LA parties and one such party took place at Sharon Tate's residence, where sexual and ritualistic rites occurred – along with heavy drug use. 
According to an Immigration and Naturalization Service report, the English Satanist group had commissioned Manson to kill Sharon because of 'something that she unfortunately overheard that she was not supposed to overhear either in regards to Sirhan Sirhan or about Sirhan Sirhan'. 
Whether or not Sharon knew something about the Robert Kennedy assassination remains unanswered.

The links between Manson and the Process are well-documented. Gorightly: 
In Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi recounted how Manson had been bragging about a relationship with The Process, until one day he was paid a visit in jail by two brethren of the church, “Father John” and “Brother Matthew.” After their departure, Manson seems to have clammed up for good about The Process, and since then has made no further comments.  
Maury Terry, The Ultimate Evil:
A jailed Manson killer told me Charlie's 'family' met Process leaders at the 'Spiral Staircase' house (the Process headquarters) near Los Angeles in 1968. Manson himself confirmed this statement in his autobiography. In a clear reference to the English group, he wrote that he met individuals who worshiped 'multiple devils' (there).
Despite the many denials of their association from the Church and their supporters, The Process magazine would later publish a piece by Manson:
In “The Death” issue of Process from 1971, a brief article by Charles Manson appeared, entitled “Pseudo-profundity in Death,” which Charlie penned during the course of the Tate/LaBianca trial. In this article, Manson described death as “total awareness … Coming to Now … and Peace from this world’s madness and paradise in my own self.”  
This was not a news piece- this was a commissioned article. Meaning the Process hired Manson to write the piece, meaning they had contact with him while he was in prison.

So what is it then? Were the killings mere drug hits or were they meant to trigger a race war? Or were they ordered by an "apocalyptic English satanist cult" with links to mind control and the RFK assassination?

Or what if it was all three?


Great effort is now being made to rehabilitate the Process Church and attack their critics (like Sanders), but what if the Church were just another front for more troubling activities, including drugs, mind control and political extremism? 

What if the Church's congregants had no idea what other players were actually doing behind the curtains while they went about their zany cultic business?

Perhaps we'll never know. 

But we should look at their travels in 1966 anyway. They apparently went from Nassau to the Yucatan Peninsula to New Orleans.

That's a very interesting path indeed. 

First Nassau. From a 1981 Christian Science Monitor article entitled "Bahamas: an island paradise for drug traffickers":
Tainted cash flowing in from drugs smuggling has permeated every sector of the economy.  
The story is much the same in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, where many new commercial ventures funded by drug money are changing the face of the inner city.
Then Yucatan. From a STRATFOR report on drug cartels in Mexico:
While some South American drugs come into Mexico on land at the Guatemalan border, most are shipped via air or boat along two main routes. The first route enters the Yucatan Peninsula by either remote airstrips or the port of Cancun and then goes across the border into Texas by land, air or sea along the Gulf of Mexico.  
"As a port city, New Orleans was a gateway for drug smuggling well into the 20th century, and the city's historic tolerance for gambling, drinking and other behaviors proved conducive to drug dealing and addiction," state museum historian Karen Leathem said.
What exactly were this English cult -- who'd later set up branches in other cities like Boston and San Francisco-- doing, hopping around these smuggling hotspots like that? 

And why exactly would get mixed up with all these apparent drug hits in Los Angeles?

I guess we'll never know.

But we do know that New Orleans was also where DA Jim Garrison's conspiracy case on the John F. Kennedy assassination was filed, and where many of the key players in it were headquartered, including Mafia don Carlos Marcello.

What was that about Sharon Tate again?
According to the INS report, this “English satanic group” purportedly took out a contract with Manson to kill Sharon Tate because of something she overheard at these parties regarding Sirhan Sirhan.
In one of those zany, wacky, loony coincidences you can only chalk up to kismet, the Process Church would fall apart in early 1974, shortly after Air America, the CIA's airline widely reported to have been involved in drug smuggling (particularly from South America), had its operating authority canceled by the CAB, or Civilian Aviation Board.

Weird, wacky stuff.


The Process wasn't the only cult Manson was involved with. Another LA area cult would enter the mix when a grim headline hit the papers.

As it happened, there'd be no Thelemic solidarity once the Solar Lodge scandals hit the wires. Especially not when the magic "Manson" word was uttered:"OTO leader Grady) McMurtry promptly informed on Brayton to the FBI, almost certainly to avoid his own affairs being investigated too closely.

Reports of the Family's involvement with the Solar Lodge came in from other sources as well: (Ed) Sanders reported that at least five separate sources informed him that Manson was involved with the Solar Temple Lodge...Sander's also claimed that a house owned by Brayton at 1251 West Thirtieth Street in Los Angeles was supposedly frequented by Manson. [In fact, it was Manson ‘Family’ member Tex Watson, not Charles Manson.

Alex Constantine wrote that the Solar Lodge were another link in the Mansonian apocalyptic chain and used similar tactics on their members as did Manson himself:
 The group subscribed to a grim, apocalyptic view of the world precipitated by race wars... The Riverside O.T.O., like the Manson Family, used drugs, sex, psycho-drama and fear to tear down the mind of the initiate and rebuild it according to the desires of the cult's inner-circle.
The Braytons used their proceeds from the cult to buy a number of properties in the LA area. How exactly they raised these funds is unclear. It's difficult to imagine they did so from members' dues, as some ex-cultists have claimed.

A former member detailed just how brutal the cult leader's control tactics were, charges which were disputed by some lodge members: 
Candace Reos, a former member of the Solar Lodge, was questioned by the police in 1969. She stated that Brayton practised thought-control on the Lodge's members; one member, she remembered, was ordered to curb his sexual desires by cutting his wrists every time he was aroused. Mrs. Reos told the police that when she herself became pregnant, Brayton was outraged, and told Reos that she would have to train herself to hate the unborn child.  
Reos went on that the children of the group's forty-three members were kept apart from their parents, and received special "training" that was given in "very severe tones." She added that "there was a lot of spanking involved, and a lot of being enclosed in dark rooms." The teacher's punishments "left welts", and the Order parents themselves were sometimes ordered to beat their own children.
Following the headlines over child abuse, Brayton and her husband would flee to Mexico and other members would be jailed. 


The Manson story was a Hollywood story, a story of the young Hollywood demimonde run amok, and its flirtation with the new breed of rough trade ending as badly as anything Kenneth Anger had ever chronicled.

So perhaps it's no surprise that Hollywood was quick to reassure itself in the grand Hollywood tradition.

Or perhaps the not-so-grand tradition: a 1970 TV movie called Ritual of Evil, that I previously reviewed on the Satellite.
(I)ts plot is ripe with parallels to the Manson Family case, though none of the details that people might normally focus on. Instead, it seems to be encoding details about Sharon Tate, the Process Church and the bad news party scene on Cielo Drive, all those details that didn't begin to surface until Ed Sanders' muckracking expose, The Family was published in 1971, a year after this film aired.
In Ritual, a rich young woman named Aline Wiley is discovered dead on a beach, and investigation into her apparent suicide reveals that a satanic cult called Capricorn has been making the rounds in LA, spicing up the orgy scene with mock human sacrifices and black masses. At first suspicion falls on a folk singer (played by Georg Stanford Brown) who is lodging on the Wiley estate, especially since he recently spent time in prison on a drug rap.
But Sorrell soon learns that Aline was mixed up with Capricorn and used to bring hippies to her parties (read: orgies) and subject them to nasty, satanically-tinged S/M games. These games then climax in the ritual sacrifice of a poor bearded hippie- that is to say, a Charles Manson-lookalike as sacrificial lamb (patsy?)- and Aline's own death. 
All of the mayhem is orchestrated by other parties, however, who use these dabblers and hippie wastrels as puppets. Oddly familiar somehow...
The patsy angle is only reinforced by the appearance of several Manson Oswalds. Whoever wrote this thing knew their Weirdness. And their semiotics: naming a satanic cult "Capricorn" would do nicely if you wanted to create a Process Church analog, considering that they worshiped Christ and Satan in equal measure. Christ was born in the sign of Capricorn. 
Several details pop out at you while watching Ritual of Evil.

First of all, the actress who plays the Sharon Tate character is in fact a dead ringer for Sharon Tate. Her name is odd- Aline. But if we scroll back up to Tate's involvement in Eye of the Devil we remember Alex and Maxine Sanders' involvement in that film. 

AL-ex and max-INE= ALINE. Get it?

So we're not only are told this is Sharon Tate, we're told what she was up to and why she was up to it. The sacrifice here is an obvious reference to the beating of the Strip drug dealer and other sicko games Tate presided over.

Bear in mind this aired six months after the murders.

• Secondly, there's a washed-up female screen star running around the house in question  (which is actually a fabulous beachfront property in Malibu). This is an obvious (and unkind) reference to Doris Day, whose son Terry Melcher was renting the house on Cielo.

There's some genuine occultism dropped into the script, some Book of the Law and call outs to Astarte and other figures you wouldn't hear cited in your usual dopey Hollywood Satanist potboiler.

The Proce...sorry, Capricorn is presented an organization with a decadent but essentially harmless front and a much more serious and diabolical force operating behind the scenes. And as the public would only find out much later about the Process, the male leader of Capricorn is a poseur and a buffoon and the real power lies with its female leader.

Fascinating. What did these producers know about the Process and the party scene at Cielo? Were they trying to tell us something about it here?

Just in case you didn't get the hint they actually were talking about the Process here, they include a subplot about a German Shepherd that's used in "Capricorn's" rituals.

• And this is perhaps strangest of all: having met and spent time with Jacques Vallee I can tell you that Louis Jourdan is doing a dead-on Vallee in Ritual.
I believe this and Fear No Evil- both intended to launch a proposed series titled Bedeviled- started life as UFO-themed series about Vallee or a Vallee-like character and that Jourdan studied film and video of the UFOlogist (who had made a splash in the Sixties and was close friends with Anton LaVey) to prepare for the role.

The writer seems to have read Passport to Magonia; the Jourdan character takes a Jungian-type approach to the cultic activities, and there's even an older,  more mystical Aime Michel-type character who is used for expositional purposes.

LtoR: Jacques Vallee, Anton LaVey, Aime Michel

Ritual of Evil aired in February of 1970. Think about that for a moment.

What does this mean?

Given the time it takes to write, prepare and produce even a made-for-TV move, it means it must have been written before Charles Manson and the rest of his family had been arrested for the Tate-LaBianca murders.

It may have been written before the murders themselves.

Telling tales out of school indeed.

Since one of the Mansons in the film was a "sacrificial lamb" for the, Capricorn's black mass, what does that tell us about lifetime loser Charles Manson, who had once begged the authorities to keep him in prison because he didn't know how to live on the outside?

What ritual is the film's title referring to exactly?


I apologize for all the alignment issues in various browsers. I have no idea what's going on with this site anymore.

* In other words a lot like now, only with a news media that actually did its fucking job and spoke truth to power.

The witch in Ritual of Evil is played by Diana Hyland, who was the original mother in Eight is Enough, based on a novel by a CIA agent.

And yes, Ritual of Evil is staffed with all kinds of Leslie Stevens people, including Hyland herself.