BY CHARLOTTE LAWS
Writer’s Note: My grandfather was killed by a devil worshiper in 1948 in the small town of Fairmont, West Virginia, and my new book, Devil in the Basement, details the shocking and heart-wrenching, true tale. It is written in the style of creative nonfiction. The killer, Ernie Yost, practiced “black Satanism.” In other words, he rebelled against Christianity while embracing evil, demons, pitchforks, occult books, and the like. Most so-called devil worshipers back then (and today) subscribed to “white Satanism” or a harmless spirituality.
This is an excerpt from my book in which Yost conducts a private ceremony in Hangman Forest with Ella—his life-size, satanic doll. The doll was featured on the front page of the local newspaper.
Hangman Forest was particularly creepy that day. It was noon, and the trees looked like bony ghosts. The sky was dark and sullen. It seemed to be giving Fairmont the evil eye. It was raring to drop canisters of water onto the mountains and valleys.
Ernie was engaged in a bizarre private ceremony in the clearing with his beloved Ella. In his mind, he was marrying her. He was ditching his nagger of a wife and connecting his trigger-happy soul with the life-size doll.
“The god of one people is the devil of another,” he read from The Black Book. “Lucifer says a loaf of bread shall be taken from the house of Kochak and divided between bride and bridegroom, each to eat one-half.”
Ernie tore into a chunk of French bread with his teeth and then offered some to Ella, who was across from him and leaning against a log. In his mind, she took a bite. Then, he set down the loaf and continued with the reading.
“Marriage in March is forbidden, for it is the last month of the year.” Ernie smiled and spoke in his own words to the doll. “It’s April, pumpkin. The start of a new year. A right fine beginning for us, Ella.” Then, he returned to the text.
“A bride must visit the shrine of every idol she may happen to pass. The bridegroom must hit the bride with a small stone in token of the fact that she must be under his authority.”
Ernie then picked up a thumb-sized rock and used it to rap on Ella’s head three times. What he did not know was that two women had stumbled upon the Hangman Forest clearing and were watching this freakish ceremony unfold from behind a hazelnut bush. They had wide eyes and rattled expressions. They had no idea Ella was made of hay, fabric, and make-believe hair. They saw her from the back and assumed she was real.
Ernie continued reading. “It is the law that the bridegroom must pass a razor over his bride’s face.”
Ernie put down the text, donned his devil mask, and grabbed a John Deere pocket knife. He slashed at Ella’s face. This petrified the Peeping Toms, who believed a madman was dicing up a living, breathing person.
“Holy mackerel! He’s killing her,” one whispered to the other.
“Let’s make tracks.” The other moved, causing a rustle in the bushes.
Ernie heard the sound and was peeved. He shouted, “Who’s there?” as he caught a glimpse of the two women darting away. He bolted after them, still in his mask. He planned to lay into them with his knife.
That day led to a bizarre sequence of events, which included bombings, murder and suicide. Yost’s doll was later found by police. According to the Times West Virginian, it was “the mad effigy of a woman… a crowning horror… seated at the table… what one might see in a nightmare… and across from the effigy, as the police believe, sat Yost for who knows how many weeks. There he ate, presumably… and his thoughts became darker and darker as he looked into the future.”
I honor my grandfather with this book, and I bring to light the facts about Yost—a man who could be likened to Hannibal Lecter in intensity and intelligence and who has the distinction of being one of first documented devil worshipers in the U.S.
Charlotte Laws, Ph.D. is a BBC TV political pundit, a former California politician, and the author of Devil in the Basement (2018) and Rebel in High Heels (2015). She is best known as the “Erin Brockovich of revenge porn” for her victims’ rights activism and was voted one of the thirty fiercest women in the world by Buzzfeed. You can follow her on Twitter @CharlotteLaws