This article originally appeared on VICE France
According to historians, Satanism can be traced back to 17th century France and Étienne Guibourg, also known as "the defrocked priest". Guibourg and his partner, Catherine Deshayes, were the first people in history to organise black masses. As legend has it a neglected mistress of Louis XIV, Madam de Montespan, asked the couple to organise a series of black masses that would help her regain her position as the king's favourite.
During each of the three masses, a baby was sacrificed so their blood could be poured into a chalice. The couple was known for performing rituals that imitated and inverted many Christian practices. Catherine Dehayes – or 'La Voison' as she was also known – later stated in court that she had sacrificed more than 2,500 children.
Having been feared and seen as the embodiment of all evil throughout the Middle Ages, Satan has in more recent centuries become an object of worship for some.
American Anton Szandor LaVey theorised Satanism in the 1960s. He penned the Satanic Bible and, in 1966, founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco. He claimed that he was promulgating a religious philosophy championing Satan, as "the symbol of personal freedom and individualism." By selecting and reinterpreting particular clichés of Western thought, LaVey promoted the surpassing of oneself to evolve and become a superhuman with the ability to completely satisfy one's own desires. The perfect Satanist was expected to practice diverse rituals and masses in order to exteriorise one's inner occult forces.
Satanism remained fairly unknown to the masses until the mid-1980s, when crimes associated with devil worship began surfacing in the media. Namely, the church fires and murders of Norway's infamous black metal scene, desecration and exhumation in Toulon, as well as multiple clergymen killings and human sacrifices spattered throughout the world. Responsibility for some of these events was claimed by small Satanist groups, while others were carried out by rogue amateur Satanists who'd found inspiration in horror movies, dark literature and heavy metal.
But, what characterises a satanic crime? Usually, the staging of the offence, the personality of the murderer, the treatment of the corpses and the presence of religious symbols are all telltale signs. Several convicted Satanic murderers also described a "strong desire to kill" in the weeks preceding their crimes.
Here are some of the most significant Satanic crimes of the past 30 years.
Castrating Brazilian Boys
The Brazilian Lineamiento Universal Superior (LUS) [Superior Universal Alignment] sect believed that all boys born after 1981 were possessed by the devil. The group, led by Valentina de Andrada, were known to dress in black robes and use kids as an integral part of their clandestine black magic rituals.
Between 1989 and 1993, several young men were found emasculated and killed in the Brazilian town of Altamira. Of the 19 victims that have been linked to the occult UFO sect, six died, five were never found and eight managed to survive after being drugged, tied up, castrated and left for dead by the side of the road. It's said that their genitals were to be used as part of the groups satanic rituals.
In 2003, after several years of police investigation, five of the members of the sect stood trial for the torture, castration and murder of five children. The members sentenced heaviest included doctors and former policemen. The alleged leader of the small group, Valentina, denied her involvement in the crimes and was eventually acquitted.
The 'Satanic Flash'
On the 19th of December, 2000, David Oberdorf – a 19-year German Peugeot employee – claims to have heard a voice tell him twice to "kill a priest."
One evening, David was listening to gothic music in the bedroom of his parents house when he felt an urge, or as he called a "satanic flash". Dressed entirely in black and carrying a hunting knife, he jumped on his bike. At around 10PM, he rang the doorbell of his local priest, Father Uhl. The priest let the young man in to see what the matter was but as soon as he turned his back, David jumped him, wrestled him to the ground and etched a pentagram into his left hand with the knife. He proceeded to gag him with a bandana, kick and stab him multiple times before eventually fleeing. On the morning of 20th of December, a parishioner found the priest's corpse laying face down on the floor, with 33 stab wounds.
The officers in charge of the investigation quickly connected David and his crime with the desecration of the Toulon cemetery in 2006 – where the body of an old woman had been exhumed and her heart impaled on an inverted cross. When police raided David's room, they found Satanic books, diverse occult objects and a picture of Hitler. David later told a court that when he killed the priest, it was as if "he was remote-controlled." He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The House of Horrors
Davy T had been going through a hard time. The 40-year-old man from Tucquegnieux, France had lost his job and been prescribed a heavy dose of medication to both ease his hernia and calm his fears. Davy was also a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and LaVey and liked to spend his time playing alternative rock and writing gothic poetry in his garage.
On the evening of the 4th of June, 2011, he poured himself a drink while his wife fed their 15-month-old daughter. His other daughter, from a previous marriage, was sitting in her room upstairs. He calmly walked down to the cellar and collected a heavy torch, snuck up behind his wife and hit her in the head, smashing her skull. The woman escaped to the kitchen with the baby, but he quickly caught up with her and stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife. He took the baby into his bedroom and began to choke her, eventually finishing her off with the same kitchen knife.
Davy headed back downstairs to where his wife's corpse lay. He dragged the body to the sitting room and proceeded to have sex with it. He then headed upstairs to his six-year-old daughter and forced her to give him a blowjob. Returning to the sitting room, he lit a few candles and incense sticks, poured himself a whiskey, switched on some music and sat down on the couch. He stared at his wife's body, took a few pictures and scrawled some inverted crosses on the wall before penetrating the corpse one more time.
In court he claimed: "It's not me, it's him – Beelzebub." He was sentenced to life imprisonment on April the 5th, 2015.
The West Memphis Three
On the 6th of May, 1993, West Memphis – a typical fundamentalist American town deep in the Bible Belt – was shaken to its core when three eight-year-old boys were found bound and murdered. Given the macabre nature of the crime, investigators quickly claimed it to be a satanic ritual.
Three teenagers from the surrounding neighbourhoods were signalled out as the culprits. All three were between the age of 16 and 18-years-old, as well as heavy metal fans that could barely afford a lawyer. Without any formal proof, two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment and the third to death. In 2011, new evidence proving that no trace of their DNA had ever been found at the scene of the crime, helped set the three young men free after 18 years of imprisonment.
A Satanist Confesses to 22 Murders
In September 2014, while awaiting trial for the murder of a 40-year-old in Pennsylvania, 19-year-old Miranda Barbour confessed to the murder of more than 22 people across the United States. "After 22, I just stopped counting," she told a local newspaper.
The young woman explained that she started killing at the age of 13. At the time, she was dating a member of an Alaskan satanist sect. After being arrested for the murder that took her to court, her car was searched and a satanic bible and a medieval dagger, which was presumed to have been used to kill the victim, were found. The police are still investigating the other murders.
Sweden's Attempted Human Sacrifices
On the 23rd of July, 1997, the corpse of 37-year-old Josef Ben Meddour was found in Keillers Park in Gothenburg, Sweden. The openly gay victim had been shot twice.
His killers were identified as Jon and Vlad, both members of a satanic organisation known as the Misanthropic Luciferian Order (MLO). Vlad was the singer of well-known black metal band, Dissection. MLO is understood to have performed ceremonies where cats were offered as sacrifices. They also claimed that they planned to "practice human sacrifices before organising a mass suicide" – something that spooked a huge part of their disciples.
It was never really established whether the crime was satanic or homophobic. Nevertheless, in 1998, the two were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. After serving his sentence, Jon killed himself. His body was found in his apartment, surrounded by a circle of red candles with a book of spells by his side.
Italy's Beasts of Satan
Sixteen-year-old member of a metal band called Circus of Satanis Fabio Tolis and his girlfriend, Chiara Marino, were last seen leaving the Milan bar Midnight on the 17th of January, 1998. Their corpses were found in a forest North East of Milan six years later. It's been said that Chiara's body had been particularly badly tortured because her killers believed her to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.
The investigation quickly turned towards Andrea Volpe, a young man well known in the area for only wearing black and driving a car emblazoned with a picture of the Devil. Already suspected of having murdered his won girlfriend, he was going through court when Fabio Tolis' father recognised him after seeing his picture in a local newspaper. Tolis remembered that his son and Andrea had been together the night Fabio went missing.
After carefully screening Volpe's lifestyle and acquaintances, the investigators came across some suspicious suicides that occurred around 2000, as well as four deaths that happened between 1998 and 2004. Several people close to Volpe were suspected of having been involved. All of them turned out to be part of, or associated with, a satanic sect known as the Beasts of Satan. They were found guilty of murder, dissimulation of bodies, as well as convincing several young people to commit suicide.
The Satanic German Couple
"6.6 for our wedding and 6.7 for the sacrifice of a soul, which makes 6667" self-proclaimed Satanist Manuela Ruda told a West German courtroom in 2002, in an attempt to explain the murder of one of her husband's coworkers.
Manuela was married to Daniel Ruda, a former member of a neo-Nazi party who converted to Satanism after a vision he'd had when he was 14-years-old. On the 6th of July, 2001, together they kidnapped one of Daniel's colleagues named Frank Hackert. His corpse was found in the living room of the couple's apartment. It had been beaten 66 times with a machete and a hammer, while a pentagram had been carved onto his stomach with a scalpel.
"It wasn't a murder. We aren't murderers. We were responding to an order. Satan ordered it," declared the woman during her trial. "The Satanic spouses", as the German press dubbed them, were sentenced to 13 and 15 years in a mental institution.
French Man Stabs and Dismembers Woman out of Boredom
"I was always bored and always looking for something that would make me feel something," explained 21-year-old Lewis Peschet to a criminal court in Aisle, France, where he stood trial for the murder of Sonia Brunbrouck.
On the 19th of April, 2012, Lewis invited the 17-year-old schoolgirl to meet up with him. Decked out in a big raincoat and platform shoes, the teenage goth said that he had a present for her. But in order to get it, he'd need to take her to an abandoned convent. After arriving to the convent, he asked her to turn around so that he could get the present ready and surprise her. He stabbed her from behind roughly 60 times. Once dead, he opened her stomach up with a knife and carved a notch into the corner of her lips. He then hid her dismembered and almost decapitated corpse under some metal sheets.
The day after, Lewis confessed to an ex-girlfriend of his – a girl named Julie – that he had killed the teenager. She immediately went to the police. Lewis was arrested on his way out of school. The young man admitted to being fascinated by murder and declared that his "desire to kill had become an obsession."
When his house was searched, the police found the phrase "killing is creating" scrawled above his bed. They also found multiple dissected animals packed inside tea bags. On the 1st of October, 2014, Lewis Peschet was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
A Raven Asked Him To Kill
Ricky Kasso was 17-years-old when he dropped out of school and ran away from home. His daily routine consisted of practicing satanic rituals, taking LSD and sleeping in cars around Northport, on the outskirts of New York. He soon became a member of a teenage satanic group called The Knights of the Black Circle. A heavy metal fan, he made a hobby of stealing bones from cemeteries.
One night Ricky Kasso and his good friend Gary Lauwers got into an argument over the fact that Lauwers stole 10 bags of angel dust from Kasso. Two months later, Kasso told Lauwers that he wanted to clear the air and cancel the debt. To make up, he invited Lawers to spend the night in the Aztake woods, with two more friends of theirs, Albert Quinones and Jimmy Troiano.
The four kids built a small camp, lit a fire and took some mescaline. Almost out of nowhere, Kasso began hitting Lawers and ended up stabbing him 30 times and tearing out his eyes. It's said that he tortured his victim for four hours. Ricky repeatedly instructed his "friend" to scream that he loved satan but Lauwers kept responding that he loved his mother. Which apparently only irritated Kasso more.
According to Kasso, it was Satan himself, who had appeared in the form of a raven, who ordered him to perform this "human sacrifice." On the 4th of July, 1984 investigators discovered the corpse of Lauwers decomposing. There was just enough skin left on his fingers for them to be able to take his fingerprints and identify him. Less than 24 hours later, Kasso was arrested. He was never sentenced because he hung himself in his cell, one day after his arrest.
Sandrine is a journalist who specialises in current events. She's on Twitter.