I was quite surprised Friday to see myself featured prominently on a nationally-televised documentary airing at prime time on Halloween night. I think you will be equally surprised to learn the show was titled “666: Searching For Satan” and featured me as a “local journalist” doggedly pursuing the history and reality of Maryland’s very own monster – The Goatman.
For those who haven’t heard the story yet, I offer a brief retelling. In the course of helping my friend Matt Lake finish his book Weird Maryland, he received a call from a British production company that was interested in filming in the United States for a special on the existence of Satan, which was to air in the UK on June 6, 2006 – 666, you know, the number associated with the Devil?
While other segments featured Parisian cannibals, psychic entities and famous American serial killers, our portion would feature some local folklore not well known outside of Maryland. Specifically, the Goatman. You can watch the show or buy the book or ask me if you’re curious about the Goatman, but as far as the show was concerned, it went like this.
Me, Matt, and our friend Joel of Eerie PA Magazine piled into a car and met the British production crew in the lobby of a Bowie hotel. Immediately, Matt was assigned the role of “historian and theologist” and told he would be interviewed about the Devil in myth and religion. The producer then turned to me and told me I would be interviewed as the reporter who chronicled and catalogued the local Goatman stories. So much for reality TV.
I remember I purposefully wore my Batman T-shirt that reads, “Duh Nuh Nuh Nuh, Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh, Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh, Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh, Batman” and was promptly asked to zip my hooded sweatshirt up. I was positioned virtually reclining on a sofa in the hotel lobby. Some tables were moved and faux flower arrangements rearranged before the lights, microphones and cameras were turned on.
I’ve blocked out most of what happened next, but I remember the show host pelting me with unanswerable questions in a thick Cockney accent (“Do you believe the Devil exists?”) while two or three other people held microphones and positioned lights. Of course, the production drew the attention of any and everyone passing through the hotel, so there was an entourage of passersby watching me stumble through explaining how the Lord of the Underworld might walk through the woods of Bowie, Maryland.
Once I was through my portion, I vaguely remember Matt Lake being propped up at a nearby table and decorated with scattered tomes to enhance his professorial role. When he was asked on camera to explain the role of the Devil in myth since the beginning of religion, I turned and left the lobby.
The funny part was the Brits had apparently hornswaggled the hotel by arranging for rooms they never intended on occupying, in exchange for use of the lobby. Once filming was done and pleasantries exchanged, the crew was packed up and out of the lobby before we were. The Bowie hotel may still not fully understand what happened that day. Oh yeah, it was filmed on Mother’s Day too. So I had an interesting explanation for why I showed up late to the family dinner that night at my Mom’s house.
After airing 6/6/06 in England, the show became difficult to track down. An insider at the production company wanted to sell me a dubbed copy for the British equivalent of $160. Eventually, a year or so later, a bootlegged copy was procured.
Now, without warning, “666: Searching For Satan” has aired at least once in America. Finally, I feel like I can add it back to my resume without guilt and I’ve got the my lasting quote ready to be chiseled into my tombstone:
“If it looks like the Devil, acts like the Devil, walks like the Devil…it might be the Devil.”
For the bravest souls out there, here’s the intro to the show and first segment:
And here’s our Goatman portion:
And here’s a synopsis of the show I found online:
Just what does the Devil look like? It’s a question that’s perplexed people for centuries and no one seems able to come up with a definitive answer… until now.
The show travels around the world to shed new light on some of the most heinous crimes ever committed in which the perpetrators claim to have been guided or ‘inspired’ by the devil to carry out their grisly acts. The sightings and interpretations of Satan will then be amalgamated to create a final image of the “Devil” through CGI imaging technology.
The show visits six grim locations associated with the Devil, to illustrate where Satan could possibly be found. From the Bronx streets where serial killer Son of Sam swears he was forced to commit his crimes under the instructions of a devil-dog, to the Manson Murder mansion where whisperings of the Devil are believed to have driven the killers into a crazed murdering spree and the Parisian cannibal Nico Claux who claims the Devil was his guide.
Six images have been created from six stories that led to the composite; most would agree it looks surprisingly similar to the Satan we would expect. But when looking at the image, remember one thing: many people believe the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing people he does not exist.
The dog:The question of whether the Devil can take on any living form has raged for years. Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz, whose bloody reign terrorised New York in the late 1970s, seemed to think so. He claimed his neighbour’s dog was a messenger of the Devil that drove him to murder. His attorney, Mark Jay Heller, says: ‘The dog’s howling was a sign to David. He felt he was an instrument of a greater power.’ Before he was captured, Berkowitz taunted police with notes saying: ‘I am the monster, I am Beelzebub.’
Charles Manson: The man widely regarded as Satan in human form instructed his followers – The Family – to kill five people, including Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate on August 9, 1969. Manson’s followers described him as ‘having magical and hypnotic powers’ and he often referred to himself as both Christ and the Devil. According to other family members, Manson’s right-hand man, Charles Tex Watson, exclaimed: ‘I am the Devil and I have come to do the Devil’s work’ while on the murder spree. Manson’s name has since become synonymous with evil in popular culture.
Jersey Devil: As featured in Metro last month, the Jersey Devil has been described as a bat/dog/goat hybrid that roams the Pine Barrens of the American state of New Jersey. Witnesses have reported hearing blood curdling screams in the night and bizarre unexplained footprints have been found.
Pazuzu:Pazuzu is an Assyrian demon on which The Exorcist was based. He is said to have the body of a man, the head of a lion, talons instead of hands and a scorpion’s tale. Nico Claux, a convicted Parisian murderer, necrophile and cannibal, firmly believes he is one of Pazuzu’s servants saying: ‘Cannibalism is a communion with the devil. When I die, I will go to hell and sit on his left side. People say I am the devil but I am not, I am just a tool in his hands.’ Disturbingly, after serving eight years for murder, Claux is now not only free but has been declared legally sane.
Possessed eyewitness account: In the aptly named town of Wilder, Kentucky, Bobby Mackey’s Music World is a nightclub that many think houses the gateway to hell. The club was once a slaughterhouse and a basement tunnel would pour blood from dead animals into a nearby river, while a group of Satanists would practise rituals on the site. Carl Lawson, a former resident caretaker of the club, believes he was possessed by the Devil while working there, saying: ‘I firmly believe the spirits were in me. Satan would make me stay up for days on end. I could see his face in the bar mirrors. He had piercing red eyes.’ Lawson was later exorcised by a local priest.
Goatman:Maryland in the US has its own forest legend, the Goatman – a beast that looks similar to the Greek god Pan.