One of the cases Geraldo Rivera used in his now infamous television special, Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground, was the Bob Berdella case in Kansas City, Missouri. Berdella was the proprietor of Bob's Bizarre Bazaar, which sold occult items and curios from primitive cultures. A good deal of time was spent in the Geraldo Rivera special linking Berdella with the supposed nationwide, highly organized, satanic network, using the Berdella case to "prove" the existence of this so-called network which supposedly is systematically committing ritual murders, ritually abusing, sacrificing and indoctrinating our children, supporting itself through drug trafficking, the production and distribution of pornography, kiddie porn and snuff films, while infilterating the United States Army and so on in an effort to eventually dominate and control the country and presumably the world. Great stuff for novels and movies. However, especially considering the general type of individual drawn to satanism in the first place, it is not at all realistic. Upon careful examination of Rivera's horror story, one notices that it is rather like the raiments of a beggar or a patchwork quilt fabricated out of various unrelated bits of miscellany.
The Bob Berdella case is but one of the odd scraps Rivera carelessly stitched to his beggar's cloak.
Robert Berdella has been accused of torturing and murdering more than one young man, and we are certainly not questioning his guilt or innocence here. However, objectively viewed, it appears as if the case had nothing to do with cult activity, let alone a nationwide organization of satanists, and that Berdella's crimes were simply motivated by the perversity of a single individual who had, at most, a marginal interest in "the occult". To use such individuals as justification for a modern witchhunt would be like persecuting all Christians as well as Christianity itself simply because, from time to time, individuals thought to have been "good Christians" or who thought of themselves as devout Christians, were found to be guilty of crimes committed in the name of God or Jesus Christ. And, in fact, there have been plenty of crimes, including ritual murder, committed by individuals who believed that God or Jesus, not the Judeo-Christian Devil, instructed them to "cleanse the world" or some other such thing. Yet I do not see Rivera going after the vast network of Christians in this country, focussing his investigations upon the Vatican!
Frater Anubis, a practising attorney in Kansas City, wrote to me last March, after reading TNN VI.1, saying in part:
"You briefly touched upon the events which occurred here in Kansas City regarding the now convicted murderer, Bob Berdella. Geraldo devoted a portion of his infamous program to these unfortunate events, thus leaving the uninformed viewing public with the impression that Berdella was a satanist who engaged in human sacrifice. As was pointed out by both the Kansas City police department and the prosecutor's office, such charges were utter nonsense. ... Geraldo basically showed up and told Albert Riederer, the County Prosecutor, what he was going to show on the air. Although I was not privy to this conversation, I had heard that Riederer responded by telling Geraldo that his planned report was not in accord with the facts, a point Geraldo dismissed as being irrelevant.
"Furthermore, apparently Geraldo had been asked to come to Kansas City and 'report' on the Berdella case by a woman named Carol Koh [sic], whom Geraldo subsequently interviewed on his program. What Geraldo of course failed to point out was that Carol Koh [sic] was running against Riederer for county prosecutor, and had been exploiting the issue of 'satanism' and the Berdella case for purely political reasons. Fortunately, she was perceived by the media and the public as nothing more than an opportunist and she lost the election by an overwhelming majority."
Terrific. A starting point. I immediately sent out a few letters of inquiry into this matter. Sergeant Gregory P. Mills, the Media Liasion officer of the Kansas City Police Department was the first to kindly respond to my inquiries. Obviously the investigation into the murders committed by Robert Berdella was extensive and comprehensive, and yet one of the conclusions reached was that "there was never any indication that these crimes were in anyway connected to satanic rituals." The complete letter follows:
LARRY J. JOINER
Chief of Police
April 17, 1989
G.M. Kelly, Editor
The Newaeon Newsletter
P.O. Box 19210 Pittsburg [sic], PA 15213
The Investigation into the murders committed by Robert Berdella was one of the most extensive investigations ever conducted in this area. Over a 12 week period, a squad of 11 detectives interviewed 550 people, served 12 search warrants, and wrote 10 volumes of reports. Through this investigation there was never any indication that these crimes were in anyway connected to satanic rituals.
In every instance when we have been approached by the media on this topic, we have been very candid with our beliefs, which are based upon facts uncovered during the investigation. Most have accepted the reasoning of the police and prosecutor, however some have not. I can only assume that this difference of opinion is grounded not in fact but in ratings.
Sergeant Gregory P. Mills
Of course, Rivera's answer to this would be that the police department is lying or covering up, if not perhaps due to corruption and satanic involvement in the department itself, a charge Rivera generally does not make personally but allows others to make on his program and special, because the prosecutor did not wish to confuse the issue of the crimes with satanic elements that the jury would disbelieve, perhaps causing the whole case to be thrown out of court, or otherwise lose the conviction. One of the problems with this reasoning, if I may call it that, is that on the one hand it implies that the individuals chosen to serve on the jury would be too stupid to see past the issue of satanism to concentrate upon the actual crimes committed. Murder is a heinous crime whether it is committed in the name of the Devil or God. On the other hand, it may give too much credit to some people. Rivera has stated that the charges of satanism would be disbelieved, thus seriously jeopardizing the entire case. However, not only would it not jeopardize a murder case, but the viewing audience had proven, through Rivera's high ratings, that it is all too willing to believe the nonsense about a nationwide satanic conspiracy, ritual human sacrifices upon a mass scale, and the whole horrible scenario. It would seem to me that if County Prosecutor, Riederer, was a bit less scrupulous than he appears to be, he would have been glad to bring in the satanic angle to further incite fear and hatred, using Berdella's shop as proof of his occult interests, using the general public's basic ignorance of occult matters, and so more easily secure the conviction. Of course this would only work if it were all provably true.
At a later date, responding to my inquiry, at my request, Mr. Riederer contacted me by telephone. I only wish that he had caught me at a time when I was more alert! Having recently moved and for weeks been busy with reorganization and many other matters, I was trying to sleep in when he called. Consequently I was a bit disoriented and only partially awake - certainly not on the ball! Nevertheless, Mr. Riederer impressed me as being a down-to-earth, rational gentleman and he did clear up a few matters for me. He was a far better interviewee than I was an interviewer at that time, and I thank him for his kind consideration.
According to County Prosecutor Albert Riederer during our telephone conversation of May 8th, there was no indication of satanism or occult involvement in the Bob Berdella case. He pointed out that only a few seconds of the interview he had had with Rivera, which had been recorded and lasted for at least an hour, had been used for Rivera's special and that Rivera, said Mr. Riederer, "had the story written before he interviewed me." Mr. Riederer informed me that Ms. Coe had indeed been exploiting the Berdella case in an effort to become County Prosecutor, but while he said that he did not think she had actually called Rivera to Kansas City, she was more than willing to say absolutely anything Rivera wanted to hear to further exploit the matter. The meeting of Geraldo Rivera and Ms. Carol Coe, Mr. Riederer told me, was a "marriage made in heaven." I think of it more as an illicit and perversely vampiric affair initiated in hell.
Obviously Ms. Coe intended to use Geraldo Rivera in her attempt to become County Prosecutor, while Rivera used her and her willingness to cater to his perverted pseudo-journalistic desire to further "prove" that there is indeed an organized nationwide satanic cult in America orchestrating horrors that make Hollywood films seem tame by comparison. Truly the two were right for one another. We wish them all the best together.
So it boils down to one word against another, I suppose. The word of Geraldo Rivera and Carol Coe against the word of Mr. Riederer, the Kansas City Police Department ... and ... oh yes ... common sense and the facts.
As an interesting note which has nothing to do with the Kansas City affair: Geraldo Rivera was a guest on The Pat Sajak Show, which I just happened to catch in passing, and on that program Rivera, as I was certain he would, leaped upon the opportunity and claimed that the recent ritual murders near Matamoros, Mexico, "proved" everything he has been saying. I am told that he even devoted an installment of his talk show to the Matamoros matter. Gee. I missed it. How awful. Thing is, I cannot see how this in any way validated anything Rivera has ranted on about since the drug trafficking cult was not satanic, they were not part of any well organized nationwide satanic organization, and every indication is that they were what the more rational of us have never denied exists: a small isolated group of perverse individuals, practicing a perverted form of some esoteric belief system - Palo Mayombe, Ann Rodgers-Melnick of The Pittsburgh Press calls it. While such as these are quite undesirable and should be dealt with harshly, they are fortunately neither widespread nor organized - quite localized actually - a relatively rare element of dis-ease in our society and not a major plague or cancer, and they in no way legitimately represent any genuine aspect of religion, mysticism or magick. That is to say, they do not truly represent the philosophies and students of the esoteric arts and sciences, generally called "the occult".