IN SLIPPERY ROCK…
Spooky Halloween Predictions Unfulfilled
By LARRY CIPTAK
Butler Eagle Staff Reporter
If a simple "boo" didn't scare you this Halloween, perhaps 14 dead horses with their hearts and eyes plucked out did.
Unless, of course, you were too busy worrying about the escaped murderer who was carving his way from Clarion to Slippery Rock.
Amid recent rumors of Satan-worshipers, mass-murderers and ax-wielding psychos practicing their trades in northern Butler County, Halloween festivities went on over the weekend, culminating last night in an uneventful trick-or-treat night, and an orderly Halloween parade in Slippery Rock.
Slippery Rock Police Chief Larry Thompson said most of the rumors were reported to have started with a psychic who predicted a mass murder on Halloween night in a town whose name is the same as a local schools, as is the case with Slippery Rock.
The number expected to be slaughtered has varied from four to 24, and the psychic's prediction was reportedly heard on the Johnny Carson, Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo Rivera or Phil Donahue shows, Thompson said.
When reports began coming in, Thompson contacted the Donahue show in New York and was told that no such show was aired.
"Nobody hears the rumors themselves. They hear it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from somebody else who was told by somebody else," he said.
As of yesterday, Slippery Rock Borough Police had received more than 140 calls, mostly from parents concerned about their children's safety while trick-or-treating.
Although the concerns were numerous, Halloween plans went ahead as scheduled — with extra precautions.
Thompson said that both borough police cars patrolled neighborhoods during trick-or-treat and that patrolmen walked the streets for extra visibility.
In Lake Arthur Estates, trick-or- treat was held Saturday night with a "colt patrol" on the watch. The patrol was composed of local citizens who blocked off access to the neighborhood and questioned anyone wishing to enter, said a Slippery Rock Borough employee who lives in the area.
West Liberty held trick-or-treat Friday night and added "extra supervision," borough Secretary Judith Hoffman said. West Liberty council members had met with Slippery Rock Police on Friday afternoon and discussed safety pre-cautions to be taken.
"Everyone kept their eyes open," Hoffman said, adding that the evening went by without incident.
Although the scope of the rumors was known Thursday, The Eagle abided by Thompson's request not to arouse public panic or inspire copycat activity and wait until after Halloween to disclose the rumors. A Pittsburgh newspaper published an article about the rumors Friday.
Cross Burning Reported
In addition to Slippery Rock Police, Butler State Police have also been receiving all kinds of calls. A caller last night reported a cross burning on Trimber Road in Donegal Township, but no cross was found when the scene was investigated.
Dogs were also reported to be hanging from trees, but none were located, police said.
Butler State Police say they believe that a recent Geraldo Rivera TV special about satanic worship has increased the hysteria over the rumors.
"We're going to call Geraldo and thank him," one trooper said.
Discussed in Schools
In the Slippery Rock School District, Superintendent Gerald Heller said, teachers and guidance counselors have been devoting class time to discussing the rumors, not only to combat them but to teach pupils about the effects of such rumors.
"We're not taking the rumors seriously, but we're taking the reaction to them seriously," Heller said.
"In order to combat rumors, you have to get to the facts. And we are using it as a learning experience for the children."
Thompson said the parents of a child who attends an elementary school in another district wanted to pull the child out of the school be-cause of the rumors.
Each Report Checked
Although the breadth of the re-ports has been as wide as the imagination, Thompson investigated each one and said he found no evidence corroborating any of the allegations.
"I've heard (sacrifice) stories of girls, virgins, one with animals," Thompson said.
"I heard last night (that devil worshippers) are going to kill all the black dogs in Butler County."
A mode of proposed sacrifice is to throw the victims in the borough's water tank, one of the high points of the county. Some rumors are built around sacrifices being held at high and low points in the area, spots supposedly held sacred to satanic worshipers, Thompson said.
Wild Tales Reported
Slippery Rock Police also received an anonymous call Wednesday night and were told that kidnappings would begin Friday, murders Monday. Giggling was heard in the background, Thompson said.
Townspeople have also called asking whether a reported incident in which at least 20 dogs found skinned in the Sharon area last spring is connected with the rumors, but Thompson said an investigation showed that the carcasses were of foxes caught by a trapper.
Similar rumors of dog carcasses found near the Old Stone House on Route 8 near Slippery Rock have proven to be unfounded.
The Old Stone House was also supposedly the site where a varying number of horses were found recently with their hearts and eyes removed, but an investigation of the area turned up no evidence of such an incident.
On SRU Campus
On the Slippery Rock University campus, the dormitory Founders Hall has been a choice target for rumormongers because of its status as the highest point on campus, as eighth-floor resident assistant John Dubler, a sophomore from Fullerton, Calif., knows all too well.
According to one prediction, as many as 15 students were to be bludgeoned with an ax, knife or machete, Dubler said. He said that while some Founders Hall residents say they have found it a "challenge" to sleep in the dorm with their doors unlocked, "I'm sleeping with mine locked."
Also, rumors that Keister Apartments would be the site of a gruesome mass murder on Halloween had several coeds worried.
Sophomores Beth Potter of Slippery Rock and Kelly Ritter of Pitts-burgh planned to stay with a number of friends during the fated night.
Ritter and Potter also told of a rumor that an escaped murderer who believes he is Jason of "Friday the 13th" fame is butchering his way from Clarion to Slippery Rock — hockey mask and all.
"This is getting so blown out of proportion, it's incredible," Dubler said.
The same hoopla occurred at Clarion University in October 1986, senior Francine Liberto of Pittsburgh said.
"It seems to go from college to college," Libetro said.
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