People report finding dead animals, symbols often linked to Satanism
By IAN DEMSKY
From spray painted pentagrams to chopped up dogs — it doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while, Metro police are called upon to investigate the bizarre and macabre.
"Occult activity" even has its own police code, like a robbery or shooting: 10-79.
A Tennessean review found just 46 such police calls from Jan. 1, 2002, through July 13 of this year out of more than a million incidents. And only a handful of those rose to the level where a police report was generated.
While they don't show a widespread pattern, they offer a small glimpse into Nashville's darker side.
Priest Lake Presbyterian elder Earl Hutchison, 79, called police in March after an inverted pentagram and "666" were spray painted on the church. Those symbols are often associated with Satanism.
Hutchison said he wasn't overly concerned that the ciphers were anything more than a prank, but wanted to inform law enforcement in case there was additional mischief committed at an upcoming church event. He thought they might even be gang symbols.
"I'm not that familiar with the various gangs that are reportedly around," he said. "But I thought the police would be."
Nothing further happened, except for an incident soon after in which vandals entered through an unlocked door and poured coffee, pancake mix and syrup on the floor, he said.
Jeremy Pigg, 25, of Antioch also reported a pentagram near his home to police as a "matter of record."
Boards had been placed in the shape of a star in his cul-de-sac, outlined with chalk with a stone in the center, according to a police report. Pigg thought neighborhood kids were to blame but wanted to make a report in case anything else happened, he said.
"They were just being little brats, I guess," Pigg said.
But several incidents reviewed by The Tennessean had a more sinister air and involved animals.
Claudia Curry, 48, of Ponder Place reported finding a voodoo doll, dried chicken leg and some oil hanging from her door knob in April 2004.
Police told her to throw the items away. Curry could not be reached for comment.
A few months later, Gospel, a German Shepherd belonging to Jonathan Lippmann, 32, became suddenly ill. Lippmann suspected Gospel had been poisoned, according to the police report. The next day, he found a note written on his car windows, "The Gospel is dead, the Devil lives."
Gospel was still recovering at the time the police report was written. When contacted by a reporter, Lippmann declined to talk about the incident. He would not say whether his dog recovered.
The police report notes: "Intelligence section was contacted due to possible satanic wording."
Metro police Lt. Mitch Fuhrer said reports of occult activity forwarded to Intelligence are investigated like any other case to determine if a crime has been committed.
Officers also check to see if suspected occult graffiti can be linked to a local gang, he said.
"Some of the gangs use symbols people could mistake for satanic," he said.
If the incident was reported at a church, place of worship or against someone with an alternative lifestyle, police also will determine whether a hate crime might have been committed.
Most of the time, the pentagrams, graffiti and other mischief is thought to be the work of ill-behaved kids, he said. But sometimes incidents go beyond mere pranks.
C. Lynn Heath, 33, reported that someone left a bucket "with a cut up dead dog inside" at her Park Avenue home last July. A dead rat had been thrown on her back deck previously. Heath did not return a call seeking comment.
In Donelson, the carcasses "of what appeared to be two dead dogs" were found by John Albert in December of 2003, according to a police report. Albert did not return a call seeking comment.
"The dogs had been skinned, gutted, and their legs sawed and then snapped by someone," the report says. "The dogs look like cattle that have been butchered and prepared for consumption. Unknown if this is occult activity or an attempt to prepare a meal."