Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Halloween VI, Texas Chainsaw Massacre IV and the Meaning of Horror Part I

In many ways Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995, sometimes known as Halloween 666: The Origins of Michael Myers) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (released in 1996 but filmed in 1994, also known as The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) are two films that could have only been made in the mid-, pre-Scream 1990s. While some of my younger readers who did not experience those dark days may find this hard to believe, but there was actually a time (i.e., the above-mentioned era) when horror movies were the epitome of geekdom and unhipness. Nobody (other than weird kids with a subscription to Fangoria, such as your humble author) watched such things, or at least wouldn't admit to it.

The slasher craze that had begun in the 1970s and had turned into a bona fide pop-culture staple by the 1980s had run its course, with the bulk of the classic franchises   --i.e. Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw MassacreA Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, etc --having largely become self parodies by this point in time (okay, the Friday the 13th series was always kind of a parody to begin with) while new would-be franchises were largely lacking in fresh vision. There were exceptions, of course. Wes Craven's New Nightmare was arguably the strongest Freddy Krueger film since the original and offered an almost 8 1/2-esque (or at least, Cat in the Brain-esque) take on the popular series while the original Candyman offered a compelling take on Clive Barker's brand of horror working (very loosely) within the confines of American slasher film, for instance.

But these films were largely ignored, with American audiences focusing on such "highbrow" interpretations of Gothic horror novels such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the homoerotic-laden Interview With the Vampire adaptation when indulging in such things. As a result those filmmakers still working in slasher flicks, especially the long-standing franchises whose names alone could still sell tickets to geeks like me, began incorporating increasingly grandiose plot lines into these films in a bid to keep audiences interested. One such plot device, used by the Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises respectively, was to incorporate Satanic cults into their mythologies.

Of course the subject of Satanic cults has been a longtime favorite of horror films but when such elements were incorporated into these franchises it came during a curious era. The 1980s had witnessed an explosion of the so-called "Satanic cult hysteria" fueled by numerous accounts of alleged Satanic cult survivors such as Michelle Remembers and Satan's Undedrground. More fuel was added to the fire in 1988 when Maury Terry published The Ultimate Evil, a radical reinterpretation of the notorious "Son of Sam" killings in which the convicted perpetrator, David Berkowitz, was depicted as a member of a nationwide Satanic cult network involved in a host of criminal activities and linked to other serial killers, including Charles Manson and his family.

While "Satanic cult hysteria" had begun to subside somewhat by the mid-90s it was still a part of the national debate (especially in the wake of the "West Memphis Three"). Beyond that, conspiracy theories were beginning to gain a certain degree of mainstream acceptance in the wake of Iran-ContraRuby Ridge and Waco: Talk radio was all the rage with conspiratorial personalities such as Art Bell and even William Milton Cooper gaining nation wide audiences; Oliver Stone had recently released his big-budget and star-studded conspiratorial examination of the Kennedy assassination, JFK, while The X-Files was one of the hottest (and certainly the coolest) shows on TV.

With all of these things converging at once it's understandable that the producers behind the Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises were willing to take some bold steps in terms of the mythology of their respective series and run with the Satanic cult angle. Still, it is a bit remarkable that the studios were willing to give them the money for such ventures, and indeed, they seemed too ultimately regret this decision --both Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generaion would face a host of problems throughout their respective productions (and beyond), as we shall see.

I shall begin first with the after mentioned Halloween film, the sixth in the franchise. The cult element was not introduced in this film but rather in the one that preceded it (Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers) and it was a brief introduction at that, consisting primarily of the revelation that Michael and the mysterious Man in Black who rescues the Shape from the sheriff's station at the end of the film both share an identical tattoo on their wrists. Why this plot line was even introduced into the franchise in the first place is something of a mystery. Dan Farrands, who wrote the original screenplay for the sixth Halloween film, had the following to say about the origins of this plot device in an interview with Fright:
"When we filmed Halloween 6 in Salt Lake City, where they had done 4 & 5, some of our crew came from those earlier films. I got friendly with some of them and I asked them questions. And I remember asking what had gone on with Halloween 5? Why did certain things happen the way they did with that film? What were the director or writer's intentions? And the response I'd always get is... nobody knew. They were making things up as they went along. And the director (of 5) from what I understand was very big into ancient superstitions and the idea of introducing some kind of black magic. So, I think he would come to the set with these ideas about bringing some of the black magic to the plot. I had one conversation with one of the screenwriters, Michael Jacobs, and I asked him while I was writing the script, 'Can you guys give me a hint here? I want to be true to what you had set up.'

"And his take was, 'We didn't know what any of it meant.' There was really no answer as to what all this stuff about runic symbols and the man with the black coat and the strange cowboy boots was all about. This all came from the director of Part 5. So since no one had any idea as to what this mysterious man in black or about the symbol on his wrist was about, I was free to go my own path with it."
Dan Farrands, scribe of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers 

I've been able to find little on the director of the fifth Halloween film, Dominique Othenin-Girard,  and even less about his motivations for introducing the cultic elements into the Halloween franchise. He seemed to indicate that longtime franchise producer Moustapha Akkad had something to do with this plot device in an interview with
"The 'Man in Black' character was inspired by Mr. Akkad during the filming. His concern was how to add an additional hook for the next sequel. So I created the character without knowing his exact origin, created on-the-fly per se. I considered him as a soul brother to Michael who came from far to get to Michael. I was conscious enough to give freedom of interpretation to the next team of creators (for H6) as to who he really is. I was attentive not to lock them in a too tight position, so they could play that card as they wished. On the set, I found the idea of the 'mark' (the Thorn tattoo) to link him to Michael and drew on them and on the wall my own 'Rune'."

Dominique Othenin-Girard (top) and Moustapha Akkad (bottom)
The rune, also known as Thurisaz and Thurs, was a most curious addition indeed. Runes were a major part of Germanic and Nordic paganism, having allegedly been given to man by the god Odin (also known as Wotan), the "All Father" and chief deity of their pantheon.
"He won the knowledge of the Runes, too, by suffering. The Runes were magical inscriptions, immensely powerful for him who could inscribe them on anything -- wood, metal, stone. Odin learned them at the cost of mysterious pain. He says in the Elder Edda that he hung

Nine whole nights on a wind-rocked tree,
Wounded with a spear.
 I was offered to Odin, myself to myself,
 On that tree of which no man knows.
He passed this hard-won knowledge on to men. They too were able to use the runes to protect themselves."
(Mythology, Eddith Hamilton, pg. 455)
Odin on Yggdrasil

 Joseph Campbell offers a less fantastical origin for the runes:
"First of all, we have the evidence of the runic script, which appeared among the northern tribes directly after Tacitus's time. It is now thought to have been developed from the Greek alphabet and the Hellenized Gothic provinces north and northwestward of the Black Sea. Thence it passed -- possibly by the old trade route up the Danube and down the Elbe --two southwestern Denmark, where it appears about 250 A.D. and whence the knowledge of it was soon carried to Norway, to Sweden, and to England. The basic runic stave was of 24 (3×8) letters, to each of which a magical -- as well as a mystical -- value was attributed. In England the number of letters was increased to 33; in Scandinavia, reduced to 16. Monuments and free objects throughout the field of the German Volkerwanderung bear inscriptions in these various runic scripts, some telling of malice, others of love. For instance, on a late seventh century stone standing in Sweden: 'This is the secret meaning of the runes: I hid here power-runes, undisturbed by evil witchcraft. In exile shall he die by means of magic art who destroys this monument.' And on a six-century metal brooch from Germany: 'Boso wrote the runes -- to thee, Dallina, he gave the clasp.'

"The invention and diffusion of the runes mark a strain of influence running independently into barbarous German north, from those same Hellenistic centers out of which, during the same centuries, the mysteries of Mithra were passing to the Roman armies on the Danube and the Rhine.  We did not know what 'wisdom' was carried with the runes at that early date, but that in later times their mystic wisdom was of a generally Neoplatonic, Gnostic-Buddhist order is hardly to be doubted. Othin's (Wodan's) famous lines in the Icelandic Poetic Edda, telling of his gaining of the knowledge of the runes through self-annihilation, make this relationship perfectly clear..."
(The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology, pgs. 481-482)

Runes would later be incorporated heavily into Nazi paganism, both for mystical as well as political reasons.
"Further, if runic inscriptions could be found on stones buried or standing in such faraway places as Minsk or the Pyrenees, then the assumption was that Minsk and the Pyrenees were once German territories.

"And, if the sounds represented by the runic symbols could be discerned in place names from other parts of Europe, then it followed that Germans had once colonized and settled in those places. This was much more convenient than actually finding runic petroglyphs in situ, for it meant that merely transliterating the name of a French town or a Russian River into appropriate runic words (which a clever runic scholar could do given virtually any cluster of native phonemes from China to Chile) was equivalent to proclaiming that town or river a dominion of the once  -- and future --German Reich.

"The alphabet was therefore abandoned for mystical purposes by the pan-German cults in favor of the runes. What was the alphabet, after all, but some sort of Semetic invention? The runes, on the other hand, were the pure expression of people of German blood. If a rune were discovered carved into a stone found lying in a field in Tibet, for instance, it was simply further proof of Teutoinic migration and domination. And once the swastika -- a sacred symbol in many parts of the world that never knew a rune --was identified as a 'rune,' the Nazis were well on their way to proclaiming the entire globe German territory."
(Unholy Alliance, Peter Levenda, pg. 51)

The Nazi obsession with runes makes the inclusion of one as a pivotal plot device in Halloween 6 especially interesting to me. My personal belief (based upon my research on such topics) is that if some type of underground cult network does in fact exist then it most likely derives from Nazi rituals and "techniques" devised by the Third Reich rather than some type of centuries old Satanic conspiracy as is commonly imagined by the conspiratorial right (though if there is a centuries old conspiracy I suspect it traces back directly to the Vatican itself, a possibility the literature typically downplays if not out right neglects). But such a topic goes far beyond the scope of this series.

The sixth Halloween film may well be the most controversial in the series among fans. Many felt the series had totally jumped the shark by making the cultic elements introduced in part five a crucial piece of the series' mythology. Some fans, however, felt that Halloween 6 did a remarkable job of tying the whole series together and provided as compelling an explanation for the immortal Michael Myers as anyone was apt to come up with. Daniel Farrands' original script was filled with allusions to prior films, and even brought back minor characters such as Tommy Doyle and Dr. Terrance Wynn from the first Halloween film as major characters. In many ways, the massively overhyped Halloween: H20 that followed Curse after horror's return to hipdom in the late 90s rather blatantly ripped off many of Farrands' crucial concepts but arguably did not best its predecessor despite having a decent budget and star-studded cast (at least by the standards of horror films) at its disposal.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was beset with problems throughout its production. On the one hand, there were the opposing visions of Farrands and director Joe Chappelle, with the latter naturally winning out. Then there was the studio, Dimension Films (a subsidiary of Miramax Films back then), which had its own vision and seemed to regret greenlighting the sixth Halloween film from the get-go. They apparently held many of  Farrands' ideas, such as his desire to cast Christopher Lee in the role of Wynn (Dimensions reportedly believed that Lee was too old and that modern audiences would not recognize him, a notion the Lord of the Rings films would soon disprove), in contempt. It nickeled and dimed the filmmakers throughout, which ultimately led to scream queen Danielle Harris (who made her theatrical debut in the fourth Halloween film and had become something of a child star for the series) dropping out the day before filming was scheduled to start. Finally, it would demand hasty re-shoots after an original cut of the film scored poorly with test audiences. These re-shoots occurred after star Donald Pleasence had died and were set to a rigid schedule to meet the film's release date that ultimately led to filming wrapping up before director Chappelle had finished. As a result, the theatrical cut ends rather suddenly with no clear-cut resolution and numerous storylines left unresolved.

Harris (top, obviously), who briefly attended the same elementary school as Recluse, and Pleasence (bottom)

Despite these things, Halloween 6 would prove to be surprisingly popular amongst the fan base, especially after a bootleg known as the "Producer's Cut" (in fact, the original cut of the film that was screened to the above-mentioned test audience) leaked to the public. Halloween 6 does a surprisingly effective job of capturing the zeiteist of the 90s, especially the conspiracy meme. Director Chappelle was apparently going for an X-Files-type feel for this film and it is very evident, especially in terms of the visuals. The whole conspiracy radio broadcast subculture is also referenced as well via the character of Barry Simms (Leo Geter), a shock jock who comes off as a cross between Art Bell and Howard Stern, whose broadcast appears in the background of several early moments in the film. Especially amusing is a caller who insists that the CIA extracted Michael Myers so that he could be used as an assassin. Apparently not even Langley could control Myers, the caller proclaiming: "They wanted the ultimate assassin...He took out eight agents when they had him at Langley. They couldn't control him so they packed him up in a rocket and shipped him off to space."

As a result of the different versions there is not exactly a uniform plot line so I will first focus on the theatrical cut and then discuss the differences in the Producer's Cut as they are relevent to our discussion.

The film picks up six years after the ending of the fifth Halloween film, where Michael Myers and his niece Jamie (originally played by Harris, portrayed by J.C. Brandy in Halloween 6) were abducted by the above-mentioned Man in Black. As Halloween 6 opens Jamie, now 15 years old, is giving birth in an abandoned hospital before a Druidistic cult on October 30. Once this is completed the Man in Black takes Jamie's baby from her, but a nurse later gives it back to her and helps her escape. The cult presumably dispatches Michael, who tracks her down to a farmhouse where he dispatches of her via farm machinery.


Jamie hid her baby before heading to the farmhouse, however, and it is eventually discovered at a bus station by Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd), who was the child being babysat by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in the original Halloween film. Tommy now resides in a house next door to the Strode house, renting a room from a landlady who was Michael Myers' babysitter on the night that he killed his sister as a child.

The Strode house is currently occupied by Kara Strode, her six-year-old son Danny, and her parents and brother. Tommy soon deduces that they are at risk and informs Dr. Loomis (Pleasence), Michael's nemesis since the first film, of their presence in the Strode house as well as of Jamie's baby. Both Loomis and Tommy work to extract the Strodes from their home, but only Kara and Danny make it out, with the rest of the family being picked off one by one.

Michael doing his thing in the Strode house

Tommy takes Kara and Danny back to his room and lays out some startling revelations concerning Michael's links to the rune of thorn. Specifically, he states:
"...Runes were a kind of early alphabet that originated in Northern Europe thousands of years ago, around 500 B.C. Cults used Thorn carvings in blood and pagan rituals to portend future events and invoke magic. Black magic. Of all the runes, Thorn had the most negative influence. Thorn may be a reason to explain Michael’s evil.  
"In ancient times, the druid priests believed that Thorn caused sickness, famine, and death to hundreds and thousands of people. It represented a demon. Translated literally, it was the name of a demon spirit that delivered human sacrifices... One child from each tribe was chosen to be inflicted with the curse of Thorn to offer the blood sacrifices of its next of kin on the night of Samhain.
"When applied directly to another person, Thorn could be used to call upon them confusion and destruction -- to literally visit them with the Devil.' The sacrifice of one family meant sparing the lives of an entire tribe. For years I’ve been convinced that there’s some reason, some method behind Michael’s madness, and the common link I’ve found is Thorn...

"Well then Michael’s power would end, and the curse would be passed on to another child. That’s why I think these people, whoever they are, are after Jamie’s baby. They must want to make Michael’s final sacrifice...

"The druids were also great mathematicians and astronomers. The Thorn symbol is actually a constellation of stars that appears from time to time on Halloween night. Whenever it has appeared, Michael has appeared. Coincidence? I’ve traced it back to 1963 when Michael murdered his sister, Judith. He escaped from Smith’s Grove sanitarium fifteen years after that in 1978. It happened three years later in 1981 when he escaped from a routine transfer from Ridge Mont to Smith's Grove. Seven years later in 1988, and the year after that in 1989. And after six years, Thorn reappears. Tonight."

Michael's "thorn" tattoo (top) and the alleged constellation it represents (bottom)

Based on what I've been able to ascertain about the rune of thorn, the film's description is way off. 'Thorn' derives from the Old Norse word 'Thurs,' which means giant. While giants were certainly terrible creatures in Norse mythology (as well as in most mythologies) there was nothing especially cursed about this rune. Beyond that the druids, whose Celtic religion was slightly different from many of the pagan practices of mainland Europe, had their own sacred alphabet and did not employ runes, though there is some overlap between Celtic and Norse mythology overall (Certainly the Nazis were most interested in the overlap between Norse and Celtic mythology and incorporated both elements into their own state religion). In general the chief holidays of Celtic paganism, of which Halloween/Samhain was the principal one, were celebrated at different times of the year than those on mainland Europe.
"From the foregoing survey we may infer that among the heathen forefathers of the European peoples the most popular and widespread fire-festival of the year was the great celebration of Midsummer Eve or Midsummer day. The coincidence of the festival with the summer solstice can hardly be accidental. Rather we must suppose that our pagan ancestors purposely timed the ceremony of fire on earth to coincide with the arrival of the sun at the highest point of his course in the sky. If that was so, it follows that the old founders of the midsummer rites had observed the solstices or turning-points of the sun's apparent path in the sky, and that they accordingly regulated their festal calendar to some extent by astronomical considerations.

"But while this may be regarded as fairly certain for what we may call the aboriginals throughout a large part of the continent, it appears not to have been true for the Celtic peoples who inhabited the Land's End of Europe, the islands and promontories that stretch out into the Atlantic ocean on the North-West. The principal fire-festivals of the Celts... were seemingly timed without any reference to the position of the sun in the heaven. They were two in number, and fell at an interval of six months, one being celebrated on the eve of May Day and the other on Allhallow Even or Hallowe'en, as it is now commonly called, that is, on the thirty-first of October, the day preceding All Saint's or Allhallows' Day. These dates coincide with none of the four great hinges on which the solar year revolved, to wit, the solstices and the equinoxes. Nor do they agree with the principle seasons of the agricultural year, the sowing in spring and the reaping in autumn. For when May Day comes, the seed has long been committed to the earth; and when November opens, the harvest has long been reaped and garnered, the fields lie bare, the fruit-trees are stripped, and even the yellow leaves are fast fluttering to the ground. Yet the first of May and the first of November marked turning-points of the year in Europe; the one ushers in the genial heat and the rich vegetation of the summer, the other heralds, if it does not share, the cold and the barrenness of winter...

"Of the two feasts Hallowe'en was perhaps of old the more important, since the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from it rather than from Beltane. In the Isle of Man, one of the fortresses in which the Celtic language and lore longest held out against the siege of the Saxon invaders, the first of November, Old Style, has been regarded as New Year's day down to recent times... In ancient Ireland, as we saw, a new fire used to be kindled every year on Hallowe'en or the eve of Samhain, and from the sacred flame all the fires in Ireland were rekindled. Such a custom points strongly to Samhain or All Saints' Day (the first of November) as New Year's Day; since the annual kindling of a new fire takes place most naturally at the beginning of the year, in order that the blessed influence of the fresh fire may last throughout the whole period of twelve months. Another confirmation of the view that the Celts dated their year from the first of November is furnished by the manifold modes of divination which... were commonly resorted to by Celtic peoples on Hallowe'en for the purposes of ascertaining their destiny, especially their fortune in the coming year; for when could these devices for prying into the future be more reasonably put in practice than at the beginning of the year? As a season of omens and auguries Hallowe'en seems to have far surpassed Beltane in the imagination of the Celts; from which we may with some probability infer that they reckoned their year from Hallowe'en rather than Beltane. Another circumstance of great moment which points to the same conclusion is the association of the dead with Hallowe'en. Not only among the Celts but throughout Europe, Hallowe'en, the night which marks the transition from autumn to winner, seems to have been of old the time of year when the souls of the departed were supposed to revisit their old homes in order to warm themselves by the fire and comfort themselves with the good cheer provided for them in the kitchen or the parlour by their affectionate kinsfolk."
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pgs. 730-732)

Still, the Druid/rune plot line is not as outlandish as it may seem. Human sacrifices were most likely committed on Samhain and Beltane by the Celts, though it bears emphasizing that these victims were by all accounts convicted criminals (the execution of which in a ritualistic fashion occurs in numerous cultures) and not the innocents the conspiratorial right typically depicts them as.
"Condemned criminals were reserved by the Celts in order to be sacrificed to the gods at a great festival which took place once in every five years. The more there were of such victims, the greater was believed to be the fertility of the land. If there were not enough criminals to furnish victims, captives taken in war were immolated to supply the deficiency. When the time came the victims were sacrificed by the Druids or priests. Some they shot down with arrows, some they impaled, and some they burned alive in the following manner. Colossal images of wicker-work or of wood and grass were constructed; these were filled with live men, cattle, and animals of other kinds; fire was then applied to the images, and they were burned with their living contents.  
"Such were the great festivals held once every five years. But besides these quinquennial festivals, celebrated on so grand a scale, and with, apparently, so large an expenditure of human life, it seemed reasonable to suppose that festivals of the same sort, only on a lesser scale, were held annually, and that from these annual festivals are lineally descended some at least of the fire-festivals which, with their traces of human sacrifice, are still celebrated year by year in many parts of Europe. The gigantic images constructed of osiers or covered with grass in which the Druids enclosed their victims remind us of the leafy framework in which the human representative of the tree-spirit is still so often encased."
(ibid, pg. 745-746)
the infamous wicker man

Beyond this, a sacred alphabet was a major feature of druidistic paganism, though it was not runic per se. They did have something very similar, however, known as Ogham inscriptions, which were likely used initially as a kind of elaborate sign language before being chiseled into wood and the like when the Druids were in decline.
"... In Ireland Oghams were not used in public inscriptions until Druidism began to decline: they had been kept a dark secret and when used for written messages between one Druid and another, nicked on wooden billets, were usually cyphered. The four sets, each of five characters... represented fingers used in a sign language... Each letter in the inscriptions consists of nicks, from one to five in number, cut with a chisel along the edge of a squared stones; there are four different varieties of nick, which makes twenty letters. I assume that the number of nicks in a letter indicated the number of the digit, counting from left to right, on which the letter occurred in the finger language, while the variety of nick indicated the position of the letter on the digit. There were other methods of using the alphabets for secret signaling purposes. The Book of Ballymote refers to Cos-ogham ('leg-ogham') in which the signaler, while seated, used his fingers to imitate inscriptional Ogham with his shin bone serving as the edge against which the nicks were cut. In Sron-ogham ('nose-ogham') the nose was used in much the same way. These alternative methods were useful for signaling across a room; the key-board method for closer work."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pg. 114)

All of these make the mythology of Halloween 6 surprisingly apt at a synchronistic level. In the next installment of this series we shall apply the rather elaborate mythology screenwriter Daniel Farrands created for the franchise to the different endings of the sixth Halloween film and the implications that it implies. We shall also get around to Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation as well as "the meaning of horror." Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

German Shepherd Sacrifices and the Assassination of Tom Clements --Updated: 3/26/13

Curious reports are coming out of Idaho concerning a rash of missing dogs, with the remains of at least one unfortunate canine being found with ritualistic paraphernalia on the body. Reuters reports:
"The mysterious disappearance of about 30 dogs in southern Idaho has baffled animal control officials and raised concerns among dog lovers after a German shepherd was found with its head crushed in a suspected ritual killing. 
"The missing canines range widely in size, breed and age...

"Officials say some 30 dogs have gone missing in recent months in Twin Falls and nearby communities in an agricultural region in south-central Idaho known as the Magic Valley. 
"A man and his young daughter hiking along the north rim of the Snake River Canyon northeast of Twin Falls earlier this month discovered the remains of a German shepherd that had apparently been stoned to death, Blackwood said. 
"The dog, found in an area known as the Devil's Corral in neighboring Jerome County, appeared to have suffered a 'ritualistic execution' in which its head was crushed with rock and its carcass covered with a purple cloth, she said... 
"It was unclear if that case was linked to the rash of dog disappearances, authorities said. Dogs have been removed or released from private yards, unleashed from chains or failed to return home after roaming... 
"John Goodwin, head of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society, said it was unlikely dogs were stolen by people engaged in dog fighting, which is illegal in Idaho, because it was rare for those involved in the activity to use just any dog."
the unfortunate dog

There a quite a few rather blatant instances of twilight language in this mystery. The locations are especially obvious -- Magic Valley, Snake River Canyon, Twin Falls, and of course, the Devil's Corral. The symbolism behind magic and snakes are so blatant that I shall address them here. The allusions to twins is more compelling as they are universally a symbol of duality.
"All cultures and mythologies display a special interest in the phenomenon of twin births. In whatever shape they may be conceived, as completely identical, or as one dark and the other bright, or one tending heavenwards the other earthwards, or one black the other white, or one read the other blue, or one with a bull's and the other with a scorpion's head, they are expressions simultaneously of interference from the Beyond and of the twofold nature of all beings and the dualism of their physical and spiritual, diurnal and nocturnal tendencies. This dualism is light and darkness, the heavenly and earthly aspects of the cosmos and of the individual. When they symbolize in this way the individual's internal contradictions in the struggle which needs to be waged to overcome them, they acquire the character of sacrifice, the need for self-denial, destruction or submission, the surrender of one part of the self so that the other may come through victorious..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pgs. 1047-1048)
The appearance of "devil" as a place name is quite significant as well. The great cryptozoologist and Fortean researcher Loren Coleman has noted that places associated with high weirdness often have some type of devil name attached to them. On his blog Cryptozoonews Coleman writes:
"When Western Europeans landed in the New World and began spreading across what was later to become America, they discovered what the Amerindians already knew…there were some strange places in this new land. Certain locations were 'strange' because the early explorers and settlers would see, hear, smell or feel strange things-weird globes of light, eerie screechings, sickening sweet odors, cold drafts of air as well as unknown aerial phenomena, mystery animals and other “inexplicables.” The interface between these newcomers and the decidedly unexplainable phenomena produced place-names that attempted to reflect the notion that the locales were special, different and, indeed, strange. The names can take many forms, but I have long noticed an American historical acknowledgement of Forteana-ridden places by the use of the work “devil” in the naming of these locations...

"Simply stated, the strange events of the past are often remembered in the geographical names of the area. Place names can be a Fortean’s clue to the 'haunted vale.' By 1983, I had found one hundred and twenty-five places with “devil names” in the United States, and I am finding more correlations with this list and Forteana every day. (See Appendix V.) I suspect many more etymological connections exit. My list of 'devil names' is just the tip of the pitchfork. Indeed, Henry Franzoni, a researcher living in the Pacific Northwest with a remarkable names database, told me that as of 1998, he had found 2,635 places named (or which were named) Devil, Diablo, or Diabla in the United States...

"Geographical 'devil names' worldwide may indicate, as they seem to in America, locales high in Fortean energy and strangeness. These places deserve some extra attention, for from the stray sod to the fairy ring, from the haunted glen to the Devil’s Den, there lies many a riddle to unfold."

Clearly the location where the dog sacrifice was performed meets the requirements for a realm of high strangeness, at least as far as twilight language is concerned. Beyond that, dog sacrifices were crucial features in some brands of ancient paganism. The Romans, for instance, used to sacrifice a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days of Summer. This wasn't the only peculiar practice associated with the Dog Days either.
"...the dog Anubis, the companion of Egyptian Thoth, and the dog which always attended Melkarth the Phoenician Hercules, is a symbol of the Underworld; also of the dog-priests, called Enariae, who attended the Great Goddess of the Eastern Mediterranean and indulged in sodomitic frenzies in the Dog days at the rising of the Dog-star, Sirius."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pg. 53)

Of course the worship of the Dog-star Sirius was highly important in many of the ancient religions of the Mediterranean region. I've written much more on this topic here and here.

More recently canine sacrifices, especially those of German shepherds, have become closely associated with theories of some type of nationwide cult network involved in various criminal activities and possibly linked to several notorious serial killers such as Charles Manson and David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz. Such possibilities were first hinted at by Ed Sanders in his examination of the Manson family, the aptly titled The Family. It was not, however, until the highly controversial journalist Maury Terry released The Ultimate Evil in 1988 that such notions became a staple of conspiracy culture. Terry's magnum opus chiefly revolved around the possibility that Berkowitz had been a member of the cult that was behind the Son of Sam killings. Reportedly one of the most striking features of this cult was their fondness for sacrificing German shepherds, which became a kind of calling card over the years.
"For some reason, there have been reports of sacrifices of large numbers of dogs, mostly German shepherds, throughout the United States in the past thirty-odd years, but notably in areas where we discover confirmed cult activity. This was as true in Berkowitz's Yonkers neighborhood as it was in Walden, New York, where a 'total of eighty-five skinned German shepherds and Dobermans were found' in a single year 'between October 1976 and October 1977.' The day after Berkowitz's arrest in Yonkers, the bodies of three slain German shepherds were found in an aqueduct behind his apartment. Two have been strangled with chains; the third had been shot in the head.

"Two days before his arrest, someone phoned an animal shelter using his name and address, inquiring about adopting a German shepherd that had been advertised in a local paper. A few hours later, someone else called from the same street in Yonkers, also inquiring about the dog. This caller said he was ' fixing some cars' on Pine Street; an allusion that Terry believes actually refers to the Carr family who figure so prominently in this case. As it turned out, two men did visit the shelter, including one who resembled Berkowitz, but according to Berkowitz himself it was not he, although he acknowledges that someone may have been impersonating him on the phone...

"Remember that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's first kill was the ritual slaughter of a dog behind his home in Ohio, which cumulated in his placing the dog skull atop a stake hammered into the earth; and, around the time of the Sam killings, the author heard convincing rumors of the abuse and slaughter of dogs in a warehouse near Brooklyn Heights, within walking distance of the Warlock Shop, before Berkowitz was arrested and the connection with dogs was made.

"Terry connects the German Shepherd sacrifices with the Process, due to their fondness for the animals. Members of the Process and those halcyon days of the 1960s were to be seen around San Francisco dressed in black and leading shepherds on the leash. The 'Fear' issue of the Process magazine featured a photo spread of twenty German shepherds in a menacing pose. It doesn't automatically follow, however, that the Process would sacrifice the animals.

"Another symbolic associations that should be mentioned is the fact that Hitler favored German shepherds above all other animals. That there might be a Nazi or neo-Nazi element to the Son of Sam cult should not be ignored, especially as mass murderer Fred Cowan -- one of the 'Sons' according to Berkowitz --was a neo-Nazi."
(Sinister Forces Book III, Peter Levenda, pgs. 197-198)

Manson (top) and Berkowitz (bottom)

And now we have a wave of canine disappearances in Idaho and at least one sacrificed German Shepherd. Idaho has of course long been a kind of Mecca for America's white supremacist underground.
"... The Christian Identity adherents also formed alliances with Richard Butler, Christian Identity 'minister,' and head of the Aryan Nations and Hayden Lake, Idaho. The Hayden Lake compound served as a nexus for white supremacist groups from all over the country, including the KKK, Posse Comitatus, William Pierce's National Alliance, and Robert Matthews' Order. It was Matthews' group, inspired by Pierce's Turner Diaries, that went on to commit a string of bank robberies, counterfeiting, bombings, and murder throughout the Mid- and Northwest in the 1980s.

"Amassing between $2 and $4 million from robberies and heists of armored cars, the group distributed proceeds among the white supremacist movement. They also purchased land in northern Idaho for paramilitary training, but moved to northern Arkansas, linking up with the CSA when they found the harsh climate unsuitable for their purposes."
(The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, David Hoffman, pg. 119) 
Richard Butler, Aryan Nations founder

The paramilitary wing of the Christian Identity movement has been linked to a host of nefarious activities over the years, including the Oklahoma City bombing. I've examine this topic in depth here. I've also briefly hinted at the possibility that this network is also linked (if not being one and the same) with the long alleged cult network responsible for the Manson Family and Son of Sam cults, among others.

I bring up these possibilities now as it seems most curious and synchronistic to me that a wave of canine disappearances and at least one German Shepherd sacrifice should appear around the same time that white supremacists are once again in the news for their alleged involvement in the assassination of Tom Clements, the head of the Colorado Department of Corrections. MSNBC reports:
"Shell casings from the same type of ammunition that was used in the slaying of the top prisons official in Colorado were also found near the car of a paroled white supremacist who led Texas police on a wild chase and shootout, authorities said in court records filed Friday. 
"Investigators are looking into whether the parolee, Evan Spencer Ebel, 28 — who died Thursday after the chase and shootout in Texas — may also have killed a pizza delivery man and Colorado Corrections Director Tom Clements, who was shot to death at his front door Tuesday night in the Denver suburbs... 
"In a search warrant (.pdf) seeking permission to search the car Ebel was driving, Texas Rangers told a Wise County judge that Hornady 9mm shell casings were recovered at the scene of the shootout in Decatur, which it said were the same brand and caliber used to kill Clements... 
"One theory is that the Colorado gunman killed the delivery man for his uniform and used the disguise to get Clements to open the door. Investigators also believe the spree may be connected to a gang of white supremacists who are still in prison...
"Sources told NBC station KUSA of Denver that Ebel had been recruited into a white supremacist gang called the 211 Crew. 
"Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said the gang was extremely vicious. He said it requires its members who leave prison to make money through criminal enterprises and return it to gang leaders. 
"He said the gang has a 'blood in, blood out' ideology, meaning its members must carry out a violent attack to get in and can't get out until they themselves die. 
"The gang was implicated in the 1997 killing of an African immigrant at a Denver bus stop. One of its members, Nathan Thill, pleaded guilty to murder and said at his sentencing that the immigrant was wearing an 'enemy uniform,' which Potok said was understood to mean black skin. 
"The gang is believed to have several hundred to 1,000 members, most of them in Colorado prisons. It gets its name from a section of the California penal code that deals with robbery. Potok said it wasn't clear why the gang was named for that section."

Tom Clements (top) and Evan Spencer Ebel (bottom)

There are several striking instances of twilight language in this series of incidents as well. In this account Clements was shot in a Denver suburb but the Denver Post sites the location as Colonial Park Drive in Monument. I'm inclined to believe the latter as the headquarters for the Colorado Department of Corrections is located in Colorado Springs, of which Monument is a suburb of. Still, this whole area (Colorado Springs an Denver are just over an hour's drive away from each other) has experienced more than its fair share of weirdness in recent year, most notably the Aurora theater shooting. This event was of course littered with twilight language as I've noted before here.

James Eagan Holmes, the alleged Aurora shooter

Then there's the name of the gang, the 211 Crew. Supposedly the gang takes its name from the California Penal Code for robbery but it's not uncommon for neo-Nazi groups to use numbers as a code for something else.
"... covert clothing styles that include ordinary jersey shirts the bear the numbers "14" to represent the "14 Words" mantra, "88" for "Hail Hitler," and "18," which is code for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, A and H, Adolf Hitler's initials."
(American Swastika, Pete Simi and Robert Futrell, pgs. 23-24)

If the numbers are meant to stand for letters of the alphabet, then the possibilities are "BAA," "BK," and "UA." There was a Nazi era submarine referred to as U-A, but beyond that I have been unable to tie any of these letters to an organization or individual with significant ties to the Nazi Party or their fellow travelers.

The other possibility is that the number stands for a date, which are also highly significant Nazi culture.
"The significance of Adolf Hitler's birthday on April 20 has already been mentioned, as has the key dates of Rudolf Hess's birthday (April 26) and suicide (August 17). Neo-Nazis foci on specific death anniversaries, birthdays, and hidden suicidal language appeared to be underlining more of the violence than originally thought. Should we be surprised if neo-Nazi demonstrations and anti-Jewish violence occur on April 17? If future homegrown troubles America focus on April 19 and 20th?"
(The Copycat Effect, Loren Coleman, pg. 250)
In this case the date in question would be February 11, which did in fact play host to at least two significant events in the history of fascism that I've been able to uncover. The first was a street brawl that occured between the Nazi Party and German Communists that was intentionally provoked by the former as a propaganda effort. Spiegel International Online notes:
"Goebbels wanted Hitler's party to show its colors in Berlin, which he described as 'the reddest city in Europe besides Moscow.' Together, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) captured 52.2 percent of the vote in the 1925 municipal elections. Berlin's new Nazi leader decided to combat the left's superiority in numbers with a frontal attack.  
"He went to the Pharussäle, a meeting hall often used by the KPD for its mass rallies in Berlin's Wedding district, and gave a speech on the subject of 'The Collapse of the Bourgeois Class State.' This provoked the communists.  
"On Feb. 11, 1927, the Nazi Party meeting turned into a violent brawl between the two groups. Beer glasses, chairs and tables flew through the hall, and severely injured people were left lying covered with blood on the floor. Despite the injuries, it was a triumph for Goebbels, whose thugs beat up about 200 communists and drove them from the hall."

Besides this early victory for the Nazi Party February 11 (specifically, in 1929) also played host to Lateran Treaty, which created the modern state of Vatican City within Italy. This effectively granted the Vatican its own sovereignty within the Italian state after the city of Rome had been brought under the dominion of the Kingdom of Italy in 1870. The treaty was brokered by Mussolini's Italy and has been upheld ever since. Certainly the Papacy was more than willing to return the favor in the wake of World War II and gladly helped countless fascists leave the continent so  as to avoid standing trial for war crimes.

the signing of the Lateran Treaty

Strangely, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope to resign in nearly 600 years when he tendered his resignation on February 11, 2013. Here we have yet another recent synch with the number 211. For more information on the twilight language of this event as well as the Papacy's long-standing ties to Nazis and fascists, check here.

Pope Benedict XVI

And it is here that I shall wrap things up. A few parting thoughts: These two incidents are certainly disturbing developments. As noted above, these types of bizarre canine sacrifices have been linked to waves of violence in the past and to groups with seemingly more than a passing interest in fascism. Specifically, we have the sacrifice of a German Shepherd occurring roughly a week or two before the most high profile crime of a white supremacist in recent memory.

I daresay there could be some most interesting revelations being made to the public as more information about the Tom Clements assassination comes out.

UPDATE 3/26/13:
Even more curious developments are coming out concerning Evan Ebel, the assassin of Tom Clements. Raw Story reports:
"And why was a man who’d spent the last eight years in prison – much of it in solitary confinement because of his frequently violent behavior – allowed to walk free on parole, without treatment for what family members and others said were serious emotional and psychological problems?... 
"A blog maintained by Ebel's mother, Jody Mangue, documented a son troubled from youth who was sent to behavioral programs in Jamaica, Samoa, Mexico and Utah, reports 7News, an ABC outlet in Denver... 
"Gov. Hickenlooper was well familiar with the case, having been friends with the 28 year-old’s father Jack Ebel for many years dating back to when they worked together in the gas and oil industry, Mr. Ebel as a lawyer and Hickenlooper as a geologist... 
"Jack Ebel testified in March 2011 before a committee of the Colorado Legislature regarding a proposal that would require inmates to spend time outside of solitary confinement before leaving prison, 7News reports. 
"'What I've seen over six years is he has become increasingly ... he has a high level of paranoia and [is] extremely anxious,' Mr. Ebel told lawmakers. 'So when he gets out to visit me, and he gets out of his cell to talk to me, I mean he is so agitated that it will take an hour to an hour-and-a-half before we can actually talk.'"

There's a lot to take in here. Of course solitary confinement is an ever so slightly watered-down form of the sensory deprivation techniques the CIA developed in the 1950s as a means of what are now referred to as "enhanced interrogation methods."
".... Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation. The title was in code: 'Kubark,' is... 'a cryptonym, KU a random diptych and BARK the agency's code word for itself at that  time. More recent reports have speculated that the 'ku' referred to 'a country or a specific clandestine or convert activity.' The handbook is a 128-page secret manual on the 'interrogation of resistant sources' that is heavily based on the research commissioned by MKUltra -- and Ewen Cameron's and Donald Hebb's experiments have left their marks all over it. Methods range from sensory deprivation to stress positions, from hooding to pain...

"The manual includes a lengthy section on sensory deprivation that refers to 'a number of experiments at McGill University.' It describes how to build isolation chambers and notes that 'the deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure.'"
(The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, pgs. 39-40)

The effects of solitary confinement on a human being have been described in much the same terms. The Center for Constitutional Rights notes:
"The devastating psychological and physical effects of prolonged solitary confinement are well documented by social scientists: prolonged solitary confinement causes prisoners significant mental harm and places them at grave risk of even more devastating future psychological harm. 
"Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, and fear of impending nervous breakdowns. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation."

Even more striking is the apparently close relationship that Jack Ebel, Evan's father, has with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. This is yet another recent high profile violent crime in which the perpetrator came from a relatively affluent family (i.e., as in the case of James Eagan Holmes and Adam Lanza). The Clements assassination is also the second recent high profile violent crime involving white supremacists and Colorado. Wade Michael Page, the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooter, lived in Littleton, Colorado from at least 2000 to 2007 and may even have partially attended high school there. Littleton is a suburb of the Denver area. While Page had a few run-ins with the law but  it does not seem like he served any serious time and there are no indications that he had any contact with the 211 Crew.

Still, it is a strange coincidence.