The first problem on any university campus finding a parking spot. I pulled in behind the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, which is part of West Texas A &M University, and all the faculty spaces were full.
There was an empty place for the president’s office. Hmmm.
Ah, there! “Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.” I reckon that by being on their campus, I am bringing types of diversity that this edu-crat never thought of.Put me in charge, and I would fire his/her ass and give all that bloated salary money as pay raises to adjunct professors in the English Department. I call the museum’s research center director, a soft-spoken archivist named Warren Stricker, and tell him that M. and I have arrived. He promises to be right down.
A campus cop drives up, but he is talking to someone else. I am unloading cartons out of the trunk, like I have a perfect right to do so. A timid squirrel sneaks up on a spilled cup of Sonic french fries. The campus cop looks at M. and me, but stays in his vehicle.
The defendant, Loy Stone, and his wife, Louise, were both alumni of West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas — now known as West Texas A & M. The university still plays up the fact that that a young Georgia O’Keefe taught there from 1916–1918. I had approached Texas State University about taking my archive of documents about the case, but Texas is so big that the university archivists (except maybe at UT in Austin) think regionally. TSU’s response was, “We’re all about south Texas. You should talk to the Panhandle Museum.”
And so I did. Warren Stricker was immediately interested.
Dimmitt, Hereford, Plainview — these locales are all right in their front yard, so to speak.
I came away with a Temporary Custody Agreement, but Stricker assured me that his committee had already talked over the donation and wanted it all — the psychic impressions, the private investigator’s reports, the correspondence, the legal depositions, the evidence tags, all of it. Hurray! I am not in the archive business, but I could not bear to just toss all of that in the trash, not after the Stones’ two daughters had saved it all for forty-plus years.
And I like the idea of seeding America’s university libraries with witchcraft materials.
The universe was listening, but gave my thought a different spin. As I wrote last fall in a post called “Feeding My Little Archives to Bigger Ones,” instead of a conference panel session, I was asked by Massimo Introvigne, a leading scholar of new religious movements (NRMs) to contribute to a special issue of the Journal of Religion and Violence with the theme of NRMs and violence.
Finally, there was the venue for an article that I had messed around with since the mid-2000s.
I was contacted a couple of months ago by family members of the two defendants in a Wicca-related murder case. It was big news in the American Craft networkI prefer that word to “community”—especially for that era. circa 1977–80. If you remember it, fine. If not, I am not going to summarize it now because I am thinking in other directions. Maybe later.
A few days ago, two medium-size cartons arrived in the mail, full of newspaper clippings, notes, correspondence, annotated copies of jury lists, itemized bills from lawyers and investigators, sworn statements and affidavits, investigators’ reports — pretty much the entire paper trail except for the actual trial transcripts and some of the law-enforcement paperwork.
The old Court TV channel (now TruTV) would have loved this case, but it came a decade too soon.
And too early for the Internet, thank the gods. The hypothetical comments on a hypothetical post on The Wild Hunt would have blown up the server, I am sure.
One thing you don’t find in every criminal case is a thick file of psychics’ impressions of what “really happened,” complete with maps and diagrams, not to mention psychic readings of a couple dozen potential witnesses. (The investigator checked out some of this info as best he could.)
Yes, it was just the opposite of the Salem witch trials of 1692–93. In this case, it was the defense using “spectral evidence.” And while there was no bill from Dr. Buzzard for “chewing the root” in court, you can bet some magic-workers were involved.For more on the doctor, read High Sheriff of the Low Country.
I don’t feel like writing a “true crime” book, but I want to write something. I had drafted a chapter on the trial for Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca And Paganism in America, but I deleted it because it did not mesh with the other themes of the book. (Now where is the file, on the old iMac in the basement?)
Maybe we need a Contemporary Pagan Studies Group session on “Paganism and Violence,” and since I won’t be co-chair after this year, I can submit something. It’s a story that needs to be told, from the perspective of folklore studies or perthaps the study of new religious movements. To me, now, almost forty years after the events, it’s not so much the “who done it” that interests me as it is the context in which these events were imbedded.
Meanwhile, I have rough-sorted all the papers and condensed two cartons down to one, having set aside lots of old Pagan zines and unrelated materials of various sorts that were tossed in with the trial documents. Among these was the “Pagan Occult New Age Directory Supplement, Autumn 1978,” from the Pagan Grove Press of Atlanta. I looked up “Colorado” and there I was, with my old Manitou Springs telephone number. Kicked back in time.