Evil in the dark garden: “Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness” on Netflix
WASHINGTON. All good horror stories begin at a place. It’s usually a grand house situated on cursed land where malevolence transforms from the intangible to the concrete via the people who live on or near it. And for this singular horror story, Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness, that place is the 43-acre Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, New York.
One haunted soul associated with the property is the subject of a new four-part documentary series now streaming on Netflix. That man is the late journalist Maury Terry.
As investigative reporters go, Terry was a man possessed. For nearly four decades, he doggedly worked to prove that the man convicted for committing a string of heinous murders worked in close concert with others. That the horror of these blood-drenched crimes, which gripped America’s largest city in a stranglehold of fear and panic, were acts of veneration to the object of their worship: the tempter, the father of lies, the ruler of darkness – Satan.
It was, in Terry’s mind, the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories.
One he was told was too fantastic to believe. “Maury, the public will never, ever truly believe you no matter how well your evidence is presented,” warned the killer in a letter.
The correspondent was David Berkowitz, better known as the “Son of Sam” and the “.44 Caliber Killer.” The man New York City authorities believe is solely responsible for a string of murders that began the summer of 1976 and ended with Berkowitz’s capture a year later. For skeptical newsman Terry, this was just another improbable “lone gunman” theory. An official narrative that prompted his investigative journey. One that led him to a satanic cult in North Dakota and a brutal ritual murder in the stately Romanesque Memorial Church on the campus of Stanford University.
In Terry’s telling of events, that story begins at Untermyer Park and Gardens. Part of what was once the 150-acre Graystone estate built in 1865 and later donated to the city of Yonkers where it sits along the Hudson River.
In the 1970s, New York State and its cities found themselves in the grip of a financial crisis.
As a result, Untermyer Park, with its six garden sections with sculptures of unicorns, lions, sphynxes, a Temple of the Sky, a grotto and fountain, and a dramatic Hudson River overlook, fell into disrepair.
And the park’s dark and haunted aspect attracted persons more in keeping with the decaying surroundings. One of them was Army veteran, US Postal employee, and lost soul, David Berkowitz. A member of a satanic cult called “The Children,” which haunted Untemyer Park, killing dogs in ritual sacrifice to their master.
It was among the park’s menacing sphynxes that Berkowitz allegedly met brothers Michael and John Carr – the actual sons of Sam Carr, Carr was the harsh and strict family patriarch whose dog, a black Labrador Retriever named Harvey, possessed the spirit of an ancient demon which commanded Berkowitz to kill.
During Terry’s Son of Sam investigation, he noticed that eye witnesses provided police sketch artists vastly dissimilar descriptions of the killer.
And he believed brothers John and Michael Carr bore striking similarities to some of these drawings, cementing in Terry’s mind that Berkowitz did not act alone. It was Terry’s persistent, some say obsessive, contention that members of the cult known as “The Children” graduated from slaughtering dogs to slaughtering young couples in the Big Apple.
Terry believed “The Children” operated under the auspices of a London-based satanic cult calling itself “The Process Church of the Final Judgment.” A cult with which Charles Manson maintained ties, according to Terry and Berkowitz.
The motive? To sow chaos and fear like that which followed in the wake of the Tate-LaBianca murders, perpetrated by the Manson Family a continent away in Los Angeles, California.
At least that was Terry’s inescapable conclusion when hearing of John Carr’s horrible death while living in Minot, North Dakota.
He supposedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head… the numbers “666” scrawled on one hand.
In fact, Berkowitz corresponded with North Dakota Deputy Sheriff Terry Gardner, sending him a copy of the book “The Anatomy of Witchcraft” with a message scrawled in its margins:
“Arliss Perry, hunted, stalked and slain. Followed to California. Stanford Univ.”
Arliss Perry was a young 19-year-old newlywed from Bismarck, North Dakota. In 1974 – two years before the Son of Sam slayings – she and her husband moved near the northern California campus at Stanford University. Her husband, Bruce Perry, attended the institution’s pre-med program.
Six weeks after the couple’s arrival, they had a late-night spat and the devout Arliss went to Stanford’s Memorial Church to pray. While there, she was raped and fatally stabbed in the back of the head with an icepick. Worse still, the perpetrator defiled her lifeless, half-naked body with two candle sticks taken from the church alter.
The shocking murder remained unsolved until 2018 when advances in DNA analysis revealed her killer to be former campus security officer Stephen Crawford. While attempting his arrest, Crawford committed suicide with a handgun.
But investigators never found a credible connection between Crawford and a satanic cult.
Meanwhile, the second son of Sam Carr, John Carr, died in a mysterious auto accident in Manhattan.
Terry believed the brother’s deaths were no coincidence but murders to cover the tracks of occult members. That’s because things were heating up after the reopening of the Son of Sam case in 1979 by Queens District Attorney John J. Santucci.
Detectives working leads the original Son of Sam investigators failed to follow-up, found credible evidence of Berkowitz’s occult associations but failed to uncover solid evidence of a criminal conspiracy.
And so, Terry was reduced to hawking the Son of Sam conspiracy theory in his book “The Ultimate Evil” on such trashy TV talk shows as “Geraldo,” hosted by Geraldo Rivera. It expressed the depths to which Terry and his theory had fallen.
And So, journalists include Maury Terry’s Son of Sam satanic cult theory among others that make up the great “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and 1990s.
But as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, famous for his televised theological discussions on NBC (1952-1957), said:
“The essence of God is existence, and He defines Himself as: ‘I am that I am.’ The essence of the devil is the lie, and he defines himself as: ‘I am who I’m not.’ Satan has very little trouble with those who do not believe in him; they are already on his side.”
Or, as the character Verbal Kint says in the film “The Usual Suspects.”
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.”
“Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness” is currently streaming on Netflix.
About the Author:
Originally from Los Angeles, Steven M. Lopez has been in the news business for more than thirty years. He made his way around the country: Arizona, the Bay Area, and now resides in South Florida. A cigar and bourbon aficionado, Steven is a political staff writer for Communities Digital News and an incredibly talented artist.
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