Dr. Dale Griffis was accepted by the court as an expert in occult killings. This is an unusual
specialty for an expert, because many investigators believe that an occult killing has
never occurred in the United States in the past decade. 1,2 There have been some murders
by psychopathic serial murderers who claimed to be Satanists, but police investigations
have shown that they were simply using Satanism as a cover and as a justification for
The text of the Arkansas Supreme Court decision in the Echols-Baldwin case contains
a brief description of Dr. Griffis' testimony. 3We believe it to be based on fantasy from a
number of sources:
beliefs from the 16th century about imaginary Satanic worshipers that were used to
justify the Witch burnings
actual practices of Wiccans and other Neopagans who Dr.
Griffis associates with child sacrifices (Wicca is a gentle, Neopagan religion,
similar to Native American spirituality)
practices of what conservative Christians often call "the occult" in which
many benign occultic practices like tarot card reading,
astrology, tea-cup reading, membership in the Masonic Order etc. are linked to child abuse.
His "expert" testimony was in fact a jumble of fantasy, hoaxes, and religious
intolerance. It must have adversely affected the jury by filling their minds with
The supreme court text reads as follows, with our comments interspersed:
"Dr. Dale Griffis, an expert in occult killings, testified in the State's
case-in-chief that the killings had the "trappings of occultism."
Occultism is very simply a collection of activities whose only
point of similarity is that knowledge about them is not known to the public but is only
released to persons in training. Other that this one common factor, they have very little
(if anything) in common. The occult includes:
many spiritual organizations (e.g. Masonic Order, Order of the Eastern Star)
methods of foretelling the future (e.g. tea cup reading, tarot cards, runes, astrology)
By linking all of these unrelated activities together under the umbrella term
"occult", Dr Griffis' testimony would have reinforced the conservative Christian
jurors' prejudices and directed them against the accused.
"He testified that the date of the killings, near a pagan holiday, was
significant, as well as the fact that there was a full moon."
Here, he attempts to link Paganism with occultic crimes.
This is simply a display of religious hatred and misinformation. Many Neo-pagans celebrate
a "Sabbat" on May 1 which was 4 days before the murder. But the religious
celebration is performed at the beginning of May, not 4 days later. There was a full moon
on the evening of May 5. However, Satanists do not hold rituals at the time of full or new
moons. If the murders were intentionally committed on the day of a full moon, a likely
explanation would be that the murderer(s) were adopting local superstitions and attempting
to divert suspicion to Satanists.
"He stated that young children are often sought for sacrifice because "the
younger, the more innocent, the better the life force."
He is referring to ancient Christian propaganda about child sacrifice, dating back to
the Witch burning times. Children sometimes die during Christian exorcisms. But these are
accidental killings. We have been unable to find evidence that any children have been
intentionally ritually murdered in the United States in this century by followers of any
"He testified that there were three victims, and the number three had
significance in occultism.
We believe that the number three has no particular significance among Satanists. Wiccans
sometimes refer to the three aspects of their Goddess, but the number 4 is much more
important to them; they recognize four cardinal directions, four major
sabbats and four minor sabbats. The number three has much greater significance in Christianity, where it is the number
associated with the Trinity. It appears in over 400 locations in the Bible. Again, he is
grouping a large number of unrelated activities under the term "occult" and
implying that occultists sacrifice children. There were probably three victims because the murderer(s) had access to three boys at the time. If two boys
had passed by, there probably
would have been two victims.
"Also, the victims were all eight years old, and eight is a witches'
There is no evidence that the age of the victims was known to the
murderer(s). The only
groups in North America which regularly calls themselves "Witches" are Wiccans
and other Neopagans. Here, he is attempting to reinforce prejudice of the jury against the
defendants by consolidating their fears of Witches, gathered from child nursery rhymes,
horror movies, comic books etc and linking them to Satanism and the Occult. There are
indeed eight seasonal days of celebration in the Wiccan yearly calendar. But
eight is in no way a
magical number for Wiccans. It could be used to point at a Christian killer; the number 8
appears more than 100 times in the Bible.
"He testified that sacrifices are often done near water for a baptism-type rite
or just to wash the blood away."
No occultic activity baptizes people. Baptism is largely a Christian ritual. Here, Dr
Griffis is reaching back centuries to an era when Witches and Satan worshipers were
believed to have rituals which parodied Christian rites. There is no evidence to support
"The fact that the victims were tied ankle to wrist was significant because this
was done to display the genitalia, and the removal of Byers's testicles was significant
because testicles are removed for the semen.
He seems to believe that a males testicles are filled with semen, and can be
"milked" through castration. This is not true. In fact, semen is composed
primarily of "the mixed product of various glands (prostate and bulbourethral)
plus the spermatozoa."4 It collects in special sacs near the prostate gland.
Also, males do not produce sperm until puberty, and the victims were years away from that.
There was no semen or sperm to collect from the testicles.
"He stated that the absence of blood at the scene could be significant because
cult members store blood for future services in which they would drink the blood or bathe
These beliefs are also derived from 16th century superstition. Blood-drinking was
commonly attributed to Satan worshipers; it is mentioned even today in anti-Satanic literature
written by some Christians. More likely, there was no blood at the murder scene because it
was washed away by the creek. If there was blood at the scene, Dr. Griffis would probably
have concluded that the presence of blood was significant.
"He testified that the "overkill" or multiple cuts could reflect
If the murderer(s) were really intent on collecting their victim's blood, they would
hardly stab them in multiple locations. It would be far more efficient to
make a single cut and drain the wound. "Overkill" might well be an indicator of
a crazed, psychotic killer or killers.
Dr. Griffis testified that there was significance in injuries to the left side of the
victims as distinguished from the right side: People who practice occultism will use the
midline theory, drawing straight down through the body. The right side is related to those
things synonymous with Christianity while the left side is that of the practitioners of
the satanic occult.
Here, he is describing modern day Satanists as performing anti-Christian rituals. This is another belief derived from the 16th century, and is without
foundation. Satanists do not parody Christianity. In fact, Satanism and
Christianity are two religions which are essentially unrelated.
"He testified that the clear place on the [river] bank could be consistent with a
If there were evil Satanists who conducted sacrificial rituals, one would more likely
expect evidence of ritual tools having been present: an altar, candles, a circle on the ground, candle wax,
footprints, etc. None was found.
"In sum, Dr. Griffis testified there was significant evidence of satanic ritual
In fact, every instance of sex murder and mutilation that we are aware of was
perpetrated by psychopathic sexual sadists. Many investigators have concluded that the
only ritual killings performed during religious rituals in the U.S. are done
inadvertently during Christian exorcisms.
We suspect that the three boys were murdered by one or more profoundly disturbed sexual
predators, and not by adult religious Satanists or teen-age dabblers in Satanism. With the
help of Dr Griffis' "expert" testimony, the jury probably concluded that
Satanists were responsible for the murders. Since Echols had a copy of
"The Satanic Bible" at home, one would expect the jury to find Echols and
An on-line copy of the FBI report on the (non)existence of evil Satanic cults by Ken
Lanning, titled "Investigator's Guide to Allegations of 'Ritual' Child Abuse"
is at: http://liquid2-sun.mit.edu/lanning.html
G.S. Goodman et al "Characteristics & Sources of Allegations of Ritual Child
Abuse", Clearing House on Child Abuse & Neglect Information, Suite 350, 3998
Fair Ridge Dr, Fairfax VA, 22033. [Free summary available by calling (703) 385-7565]