What I Think About When I Think About Salem

You’re probably familiar with the band, a group I have much affection for. Some of their work I find very interesting, some I do not.

What I always think of when I hear their music; the first paragraphs from an old essay, “The Devil in Long Island”, by Ron Rosenbaum, a writer I sometimes disagree with, but always read. I am unaware if any band members are from the much low land mass.

“He wondered every once in a while what life would be like without a second story and how it was people managed to get along in ranch-style or split-level houses without running amok once a year or so.” Thomas Pynchon, from “Low-lands”

It would be foolish to believe that a single story could sum up the entire range of bizarre and sensational behavior that is Long Island Babylon. Particularly a story that doesn’t even mention Amy or Sol, Joey or “Joel the Ripper,” little Katie Beers or Howard Stern, much less the “Homeroom Hit Man,” the “Angel of Death” nurse, the Islip Garbage Barge or Geraldo Rivera.

Nonetheless, I feel that the story of the unprintable Satanist Ritual Killing Ground Photo comes close.

Some years ago in Northport — not far from the birthplace of Pynchon, who is, far more than the frequently invoked F. Scott Fitzgerald, the true literary avatar of the Long Island soul — two allegedly angel-dusting, devil-worshiping teen-agers were branded as “ritual cult murderers” of another teen-ager in the Aztakea woods.

It was one of the first such episodes in what would become an overhyped national trendlet, and perhaps the first signal that something sinister was stirring out there behind the split-level shutters of Long Island’s suburbs. But this particular story about the unprintable photo, one I heard from a former Newsday editor who swears it’s true, isn’t about the killing itself; rather about something that happened the night after the death became public.

It seems the paper had dispatched a photographer to get a nighttime shot of the supposedly spooky, satanist ritual killing ground out there in the woods, something that would capture the diabolical horror of it all. But when certain pictures came out of the darkroom, they just weren’t . . . suitable. Unusable. Not because they were too terrifying (at least not terrifying in a Luciferian way). But because many photographs of the alleged cult coven’s killing circle prominently featured a large boulder, across the face of which was scrawled the following somewhat-less-than-terrifying cult slogan:


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