A Study of Gothic Subculture

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Salt Lake Tribune
April 11, 1997
Byline by Stephen Hunt

For Goths, 'Everyday Is Halloween'

Wearing black clothing, white face-paint and black lipstick is mere play-acting for most members of the subculture called Gothdom. "Every day is Halloween for a Goth," said Diana, a Gothic-Punk follower drawn to the movement by the dress, music and "the romance of death." Local cult expert Rand Johnson, a West Jordan police captain, said every high school in Salt Lake Valley boasts a few Goths. Most are harmless, but a few can become a danger to themselves and others. "The Goths are fascinated with the darker side of life -- with the grotesque, the mysterious, the desolate," Johnson said. "There is a fascination with graveyards, death and moody music."

Today, two boys -- ages 14 and 15 -- are expected to be charged in 3rd District Juvenile Court in the death of Jens Martin Dietz, 14. The West Valley City boy died of diabetic shock March 10 at a Goth party. His friends did not call police or tell an adult he was sick. Prosecutors declined to release the defendants' names or nature of the charges. Deputy Salt Lake District Attorney Charles Behrens would say only that his office would not seek to send the boys to adult court. His refusal to release information comes after Gov. Mike Leavitt vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature that would have opened records of defendants under age 16. The victim's mother, Brenda Patterson, said her son was not a Goth, but his best friend was. That 15-year-old boy will be charged, as will the 14-year-old host of the party, police said. Patterson said she holds the older boy particularly responsible because he knew of her son's diabetes and should have known he was in trouble. The 15-year-old's mother is a diabetic. Dietz became ill during a four-day party that included smoking marijuana and taking LSD. When Dietz became unconscious, the partyers dragged him outside to a garage. He died in the back seat of a disabled car. West Valley City police said the partyers performed several rituals after Dietz died, including a howling rite meant to open portals to the spirit world. They then discussed dismemberment and burial to get rid of the body, police said. The teens did not report his death until the next day. At the boy's funeral, a youth dropped a pentagram, symbolic of Satan, into the coffin. [The pentagram is also a popular pagan symbol representing the four elements -- earth, air, fire and water -- and the spirit. Here is an excellent web page on the history of the pentagram.] Patterson believes the Goths may have let her son to die so they could perform a ritual to gain power.

Johnson said that only a small percentage of Goths participate in ritual bloodletting, animal sacrifices and the worship of Satan. "Gothdom is primarily a form of rebellion, escapism -- a hobby. And if it is not taken to the point of obsession, it's not a problem," Johnson said. Explains a female Goth on an Internet homepage: "Gothic for me is a release from the stress of having to be the perfect student, the perfect daughter, etc. I have always been rebellious . . . and was drawn to Gothic music, clothing, and a way of looking at life." "Angst" is the single emotion best explaining how Goths feel, she said. But another Goth Website hinted at something more sinister. "If you pass out, no real Goth would stoop to give you CPR -- the position is ridiculous. Goths don't sweat -- and anyway, death is OK." [For the context that quote was taken from, go here. If you look at this website, it is obvious that this comment is sarcasm and not meant to be taken seriously.] At the extreme edge are those who kill. In November 1996 in Florida, teen-agers who had dubbed themselves the "Vampire Clan" beat to death the parents of a fellow clan member. Four teens ages 15 to 19 -- including the 15-year-old daughter of the victims -- were charged with murder.

Johnson, who has taught 300 seminars on cults and the occult to 18,000 people in Utah, recently lectured at Valley Junior High School, where many of the teen-agers present at Dietz's death attend school. Some Goths cut themselves in ceremonies called "drainings," in which others drink the "drainee's" blood. The ritual is supposed to "reconstitute their internal organs" and assist in gaining immortality, Johnson said. "I've had kids in my office saying they let blood all the time," he said. "One mother of a 15-year-old boy said he has come home weak from blood loss." [This is not a standard Gothic practice, it is probably more characteristic of Experimental and Theatrical Satanists or someone who is obsessed with vampires.]

This year, for the first time, Gothdom was a featured subject at the Utah Gang Conference workshop in Salt Lake City. Agent Lee Perry of the Utah Division of Investigations said Goths have been connected to daytime drug-related home burglaries, and male Goths are rumored to have had sex with young girls as part of initiation rites. Said West Valley City Det. Brian Shields: "The Goths are about four things: Drugs and sex, sex and drugs. This is a movement that needs to be watched." [This is simply ridiculous. There are no initiation rites, and while some people are about "sex and drugs," it's definitely not all of the Gothic movement.] Diana, 19, who got into Gothdom at the age of 16, knows of Goths who file their teeth into fangs and spend their nights haunting cemeteries. But she views most Goths as intellectuals who play chess and engage in long, philosophical discussions. "It's not a trend, it's not a phase -- it's been around a long time," she said. "It won't go away like bell-bottom pants."