David St. Clair’s Say You Love Satan: True Crime or Truly Awful

Say You Love Satan – David St. Clair

Dell – 1987

I can’t remember the first time I heard of Ricky Kasso, but I remember watching My Sweet Satan, a short movie roughly based on his last weeks alive, when I was teenager. This book, David St. Clair’s Say You Love Satan, has been on my goodreads to-read list since October 2016, and I was mistakenly under the impression it was the definitive version of the Kasso story. It only took a couple of pages for me to realise that this could not be the case.

I plan to focus on the book rather than the events it describes, but a bit of background on Ricky Kasso is probably necessary.

In 1984, Ricky Kasso, a homeless, mentally unstable, drug addicted, 17 year old, murdered Gary Lauwers, one of his friends, while tripping on hallucinogens in Northport, New York. His pal had stolen drugs from him a few weeks previously. Events like this, while certainly tragic, aren’t particularly rare, but Ricky Kasso was a fan of heavy metal and a self-professed Satanist. He had also previously been arrested for grave-robbing. While it seems that his tastes in music and his interest in the occult had little to do with the actual murder, he apparently ordered his victim to “Say you love Satan” while he was stabbing him in the face. Ricky killed himself a few days after being arrested for the murder. The media latched onto the satanic elements of the story and ran wild with them. Before long, people believed that the city of Northport was home to a coven of sadistic Satanists who had murdered Gary Lauwers as a sacrifice to the Devil.

It’s a fascinating story, and 3 years after it occurred, David St. Clair published this book. Say You Love Satan became, as far as I can tell, the most popular version of the Kasso story. Unfortunately, it’s a very, very shit version of the story. I haven’t read many true crime books, but the story here is presented as a novel, and it’s awful. St. Clair describes lengthy conversations that he wasn’t privy to, and he very clearly had absolutely zero insight into what these kids were like. It’s painful. Page 266 of this book contains some of the worst writing I have ever encountered.

The response from the teenage girl on discovering that her boyfriend has participated in a murder is quite funny, but the awful joke about the child’s corpse at the end is my favourite. How did this nonsense get published?

While this book is sensational, exploitative garbage, it’s not particularly accusatory. St. Clair makes it very clear that he doesn’t approve of heavy metal and occultism, but he also gives the details of Kasso’s unhappy upbringing and drug use, and he doesn’t give any consideration to the idea that there was a satanic cult operating in Northport. Still, the parts where he made fun of Judas Priest’s lyrics made me wince. He also interweaves lyrics from Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon into the murder scene. This guy was a real weiner.

Not a fan of Priest or Ozzy

I did a bit of research of David St. Clair. It turns out he was a self-proclaimed psychic, and he also wrote a few other novels that were supposedly about real cases of Satanic possession. Most of his other books looked like trash, but I did actually order one based on its awesome cover art. I’ll review it here in a few months.

I also watched The Acid King, a recent documentary on Ricky Kasso, and everyone in that documentary hates St. Clair’s book. I get it. The people interviewed in that film knew the characters involved, and they have every right to be annoyed that David St. Clair didn’t do a better job of telling their friends’ story. I thought that he had made some scenes up for shock effect, particularly the part where they visit the Amityville haunted house to perform a ritual, but apparently that really happened. Ultimately, both the book and the documentary tell a very similar story. My complaint isn’t that that the author took too many liberties with his characters; it’s that he was an absolutely terrible writer. Apparently, parts of the book were plagiarized too. None of this should have surprised me. A few years ago, I read a book of essays on the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, and there’s an essay in there that contains much of what I discovered while reading Say You Love Satan.

This book is poorly written, but I have other reasons not to like it. I was a heavy metal teenager, and many of my friends are still heavy metal satanists. I’m also a parent, and both the murderer and his victim in this book were children. I knew how this book was going to end, but because the story is basically being novelized, I couldn’t help but root for the characters. A kid goes to library to take out books about witchcraft after listening to Black Sabbath with his friends? I want to give that kid a high five, not read about him murdering his friend and then killing himself. This is an extremely sad story, and the saddest parts really happened. Reading this book was a huge bummer.

Satanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s – Edited by Kier-La Janisse & Paul Corupe

satanic panic pop-cultural paranoiain the 1980s.jpgSatanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s 
Edited by Kier-La Janisse & Paul Corupe
FAB Press – 2018 (Originally published 2015)

This is a collection of essays about different elements of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I remember seeing something about this book when it came out and thinking that it looked cool, and when I recently saw that it contained an essay on Russ Martin’s sexy Satanic mind-control novels, I knew I’d have to read it. I got a couple of gift vouchers from work over the past year, and I was delighted to find a way to use those vouchers to pursue my interest in Satanism.

The essays in here are of varying quality, but most are pretty good. I guess it’s inevitable that each reader will like some better than others. Together they present a pretty comprehensive look at the Satanic Panic of the 1980s.

Reading the book over the course of a few days was a bit odd as the introductory background information in some of the essays is pretty similar. Geraldo’s infamous Exposing Satan’s Underground special gets quite a few mentions. I guess this two hour TV special is probably the defining peak of the panic. Despite multiple attempts, I’ve never managed to watch the whole thing through. After a few moments of it, I feel a maddening urge to listen to Slayer and throw stones through church windows.

I’ve encountered a lot of the material in this book before, and covered some of it on this blog. There’s essays on Michelle Remembers, Bob Larson, books by Phil Phillips, and one on the McMartin preschool trial. The McMartin essay was one of the more interesting in the book. It argues that the claims of Satanist involvement in that case actually prevented prosecutors from busting a real paedophile ring. There are also interesting essays on Chick Tracts, Dungeons and Dragons, and heavy metal in here.

I felt that a few of the writers went a bit overboard trying to make their essays feel academic. One of them even references Foucault. Ugh. We get it guys, you went to college…

(Haha, after writing that last bit, I looked up the guy who made the reference to Foucault, and he actually teaches a course on college writing in a college. Classic! Referencing ol’ Michel might be a surefire way to dazzle your liberal arts prof, but it don’t impress me much.)

This is a far fancier book than the ones I usually read. It looks and feels really nice. There’s so many cool pictures, and it felt like a lot of work was put into the layout. Just to flick through it is a cool experience. In sincerity, if you know any goths who have a birthday coming up, this would be perfect for their coffee table.

I don’t have much more to say about this one. Overall, it’s a very cool book. I’m quite sure I’ll reread some of these essays as research for future posts.

Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy – Doris Sanford

don't make me go back, mommy - doris sanfordDon’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse
Doris Sanford

Multnomah – 1990

Jesus Shitting Christ, this book is miserable.

I searched for a copy of this book for several years. I went so far as annoying random people on facebook that lived in towns where the local library had a copy cataloged. I’d message these folks and ask them to go to that library to scan/photocopy the book for me. That plan never worked. When I finally saw a copy going for one cent, I bought it without thinking.

I was very excited when it arrived in the post, but as soon as I glanced inside, all excitement was replaced with sadness and discomfort. This book is truly horrible.

This is the story of 5 year old Allison. Allison attends a preschool where the teachers make her and the other children take part in depraved Satanic rituals. These kids are drugged, raped and forced to worship the Devil.

perverse satanic ritualWhat the fuck lads.

I think I thought I’d read through this and do my usual “haha, look how dumb and misinformed this evangelical Christian author is”, but this book is depressing, not amusing. Doris Sanford wrote this book to counsel the survivors of despicable child abuse, and while the events it depicts aren’t real, reading it is still a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

While we can rest assured that the events depicted in here never actually happened, we can not so easily discount the suffering that this book caused. It doubtlessly scared the shit out of any child unfortunate enough to get their hands on it, and I’m sure it terrified a few parents too. People will err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of their children, and when confronted with something as horrifying as this book, many people will throw rational thought out the window and join the witch hunt. This book is exactly the kind of thing that makes problems worse instead of better.

library slip mommyAt least I know that nobody in recent history had borrowed this book from the church library it originally belonged to.

I would be willing to forgive anyone for overreacting if they solemnly believed that children were being abused, but Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy is more than just an overreaction; it is particularly insidious fearmongering. It was released in July 1990, the same month that saw Raymond Buckey acquitted for the second and final time. Buckey was the defendant in the McMartin Preschool trial, perhaps the most notable case of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” and to this day the most expensive criminal trial in American history. While child abuse doubtlessly does occur, there has never been ever any proof of the existence of an organised Satanic cabal of paedophile pre-school teachers.

monster in meI got seriously bad vibes off these pages.

The Satanic Panic had been in session since 1980 when Michelle Remembers was published, and after 10 years with hundreds of claims but no evidence, things were beginning to cool off. Sanford’s book stoked the embers of paranoia and kept the conspiracy alive. Both the Martensville Satanic Sex Scandal and the Oak Hill Satanic Ritual Abuse Trial took place after the publishing of Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy. The latter case resulted in an innocent couple spending a combined total of over 40 years in prison. I’m fond of being dramatic, but realistically, this book could be partially to blame for either or both of these cases.

Doris Sanford wrote quite a few other books for children. While none were quite as mental as this one, the rest of her catalog is certainly curious. Some of these books like Brian is Adopted or Maria’s Grandma Gets Mixed Up, a classic tale of senility, are merely strange, but her 1989 opus, David Has Aids,  confirms her sadistic desires to petrify suffering children.david has aids sanfordmy body is filled with aidsdavid dying from aids

Children dying of AIDS isn’t remotely funny, but it’s hard not to laugh at how ill-conceived this book was. Seriously, what kind of a mental case would give this horrible rubbish to a child?

Sanford didn’t work alone though. Graci Evans worked as an illustrator for loads of her books, and the whole team at Multnomah publishing must have been mental to put this garbage out. Also, although the exact nature of her input is unclear, Lauren Statford was at least marginally involved in the creation of Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy (source). Statford is famous for writing Satan’s Underground, a discredited book in which she claimed to be a Satanic Ritual Abuse survivor. During the aforementioned McMartin Preschool trial, Statford sought out the parents of the supposedly abused children and told them that she had insider information on the abuse (source). Her story was so ridiculous that even these frightened parents didn’t believe her. After the whole Satanic Panic thing blew over, Statford changed her name to Laura Grabowski and claimed to be a Holocaust survivor. Statford was clearly a depraved, egomaniacal psychopath, and yet she was involved in the creation of a book for children. It is hard to believe that Sanford and co. meant this book to have a positive effect on anyone. Everyone involved in its creation of his horrible book was either a complete idiot or a sadistic pervert.

To this day, my post on Michelle Remembers is the largest source of traffic to this site. Because of this, I have considered reviewing more books on this topic, but while the Satanic Ritual Abuse phenomenon is fascinating, it’s also very depressing and I don’t enjoy reading books about it. I read gross, violent, perverted books all the time, but it’s these books by “Christian authors” that are the most ludicrous and upsetting.