In 1969, while gathering material for a book on the Charles Manson case, journalist Ed Sanders encountered reports of a sinister Satanic cult alleged to practice human sacrifice in several parts of California, luring youthful members from college campuses throughout the western half of the United States. Calling itself the "Four Pi" or "Four P" movement, the cult originally boasted 55 members, of whom fifteen were middle-aged, the rest consisting of young men and women in their early twenties. The group's leader -- dubbed the "Grand Chingon" or "Head Devil" -- was said to be a wealthy California businessman of middle years, who exercised his power by compelling younger members of the cult to act as slaves and murder random targets on command.
The central object of the cult was to promote "the total worship of evil." Organized in Northern California during 1967, the Four Pi movement held its secret gatherings in the Santa Cruz mountains, south of San Francisco. Rituals were conducted on the basis of a stellar timetable, including the sacrifice of Doberman and German shepherd dogs.
Beginning in June 1968, authorities in San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Los Gatos began recording discovery of canines, skinned and drained of blood without apparent motive. As the director of the Santa Cruz animal shelter told Sanders, "Whoever is doing this is a real expert with a knife. The skin is cut away without even marking the flesh. The really strange thing is that these dogs have been drained of blood." If we accept the word of isolated witnesses, the missing blood was drunk by cultists in their ceremonies. So, according to reports, was human blood, obtained from sacrificial victims murdered on a dragon-festooned altar. Death was the result of stabbing with a custom-made six bladed knife, designed with blades of varied length to penetrate a victim's stomach first, before the heart was skewered, causing death. Each sacrifice allegedly was climaxed by removal of the heart, which cultists then divided up among themselves to eat. The evidence of murder was incinerated in a portable crematorium, mounted in the back of a truck.
According to reports from self-styled members of the Four Pi cult, its victims were mainly hitchhikers, drifters and runaways, with an occasional volunteer from the ranks. One such, a young woman, reportedly went to her death with a smile in November 1968, near Boulder Creek, but even sacrifice of willing victims is a risky business, and the cult was said to mount patrols around its rural meeting places, using guards with automatic weapons and attack trained dogs to guarantee privacy.
In early 1969, the cult reportedly moved southward, shifting operations to the O'Neil Park region of the Santa Ana Mountains, below Los Angeles. The move produced -- or was occasioned by -- a factional dispute within the group, one segment striving to de-emphasize Satanic ritual and concentrate wholeheartedly on kinky sex, while more traditional adherents clung to Lucifer and human sacrifice.
The group apparently survived its schism and expanded nationwide, with author Maury Terry citing evidence of a thousand or more members across the country by 1979. One hotbed of activity appears to be New York, where 85 German shepherds and Dobermans were found skinned in the year between October 1976 and October 1977.
Along the way, the "Four Pi" movement has apparently rubbed shoulders with a number of notorious killers, feeding -- or, perhaps, inspiring -- their sadistic fantasies. Serial slayer Stanley Baker, jailed in Montana for eating the heart of one victim, confessed to other murders perpetrated on orders from the "Grand Chingon."
Recruited from a college campus in Wyoming, Baker remained unrepentant in confinement, organizing fellow inmates into a Satanic coven of his own, but his testimony brought lawmen no closer to cracking the cult. Charles Manson and his "family" reportedly had contact with the Four Pi movement, prior to making headlines in Los Angeles. Ed Sanders reports that some of Manson's followers referred to him -- in Sanders' presence -- as the "Grand Chingon," distinguished from the original article by his age and the fact that Manson was jailed while the real "Chingon" remains at large. Likewise, "family" hacker Susan Atkins has described the sacrifice of dogs by Manson's group, and searchers digging for the last remains of Manson victim Shorty Shea reported finding large numbers of chicken and animal bones at the family's campsite -- a peculiar form of garbage for a group reputedly comprised of vegetarians.
Convicted killer David Berkowitz -- more famous as the "Son of Sam" who terrorized New York in 1976 and '77 -- has also professed membership in the Four Pi cult, revealing inside knowledge of a California homicide allegedly committed by the group. In 1979, Berkowitz smuggled a book on witchcraft out of his prison cell, with passages on Manson and the Four Pi movement underlined. One page bore a cryptic notation in the killer's own handwriting : "Arlis Perry. Hunted, stalked, and slain. Followed to California." As researched by Maury Terry, the Berkowitz note points directly to an unsolved murder committed at Stanford University in mid-October 1974.
On October 11 of that year, co-ed Arlis Perry was found in the campus chapel at Stanford, nude from the waist down, a long candle protruding from her vagina. Her blouse had been ripped open, and another candle stood between her breasts. Beaten and choked unconscious by her assailant, she was finally killed with an ice pick, buried in her skull behind the left ear.
In subsequent conversations and correspondence, Berkowitz alleged that Perry was killed by Four Pi members as "a favor" to cultists in her hometown Bismarck, North Dakota, whom she had apparently offended in some way. Her slayer was named by Berkowitz as "Manson II," a professional killer "involved with the original Manson and the cult there in L.A." Aside from participation in human and canine sacrifice, with the occasional gang-rape of teenage girls.
Four Pi cultists also reportedly share a fascination with Nazi racist doctrines. One alleged member, named by Berkowitz, was Frederick Cowan, a neofascist from New Rochelle, New York, who was suspended from work after quarreling with his Jewish boss in February 1977. Turning up at the plant with a small arsenal on February 14, Cowan killed five persons and wounded two others before turning a gun on himself.
Maury Terry has also linked cult activity with the unsolved case of the "Westchester Dart man," who wounded 23 women in New York's Westchester and Rockland Counties, between February 1975 and May 1976. Despite the testimony of reputed Four Pi members, authorities have yet to build a case against the cult.
Some suspects, named by witnesses, have died in "accidents" or "suicides" before they could be questioned by police. Another obstacle appears to be the use of code names, which prevent the cultists from identifying one another under questioning. The group itself relies on different names from place to place, with New York members meeting as "The Children," while Alabama hosts "The Children of the Light" (suspected of involvement in 25 murders since 1987). A faction called the "Black Cross" is said to operate as a kind of Satanic Murder Incorporated, fielding anonymous hit teams for cultists nationwide, disposing of defectors and offering pointers on the fine art of human sacrifice. If law enforcement spokesmen are correct, the cult is also deeply involved in white slavery, child pornography , and the international narcotics trade.