Just as [Orange Is the New Black](series:761587) was THE show on everyone's lips and fingertips last year, [True Detective](series:755331) had and has a chokehold on our cultural zeitgeist this year. Welcome to 2014, where Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson ruled our must-watch TV with iron fists. You have to imagine Emmy voters were relieved that [Breaking Bad](series:200567) wrapping up its final season all but guaranteed that the award would go to Bryan Cranston, otherwise it may have come to blows over whether or not it would go to Harrelson or McConaughey.
True Detective was dark, twisted, cerebral. The crime drama was unlike anything we'd seen on TV yet.
It also happened to be true.
VICE has kicked off its new The Real series with investigating the insane story of the real-life Satanic church in Louisiana that inspired the screenplay for True Detective. While the show's Rust Cohle and Marty Hart are fictional characters, they're based on the two lead detectives who actually did work the horrific case, Captain Stuart Murphy with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office and FBI Special Agent Tom Tedder. Don Hall, the lead prosecutor on the case, said the reports of Satanic rituals and devil worshiping were "the most disturbing things" he had ever read in his 30+ years of experience.
WARNING: The following video and text contain graphic descriptions of sexual abuse, molestation, and ritualistic animal killings that may be a trigger for some readers.
In 2005, Pastor Louis Lamonica, Jr., pastor of the Hosannah Church, walked into the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office and confessed to crimes that rocked the small town of Ponchatoula, Louisiana to its core. He had done, the pastor said, terrible things. They all had, he and his parishioners. He confessed that he and other church members had regularly engaged in, among other things, child molestation and sexual abuse, bestiality, Satanic rituals including ritualistic killing of animals, and even the abuse of his own children. It went from horrifying to unspeakable:
And the dedication of [this 1-year old] into Satan was this pentagram. She would be standing in the middle and it was like, her little dress/outfit was taken off and, there was a animal killed. If I remember right, it was a cat. Killed, blood drained and everybody drank the blood.
And then it got worse: The worshippers would then take the blood from the animal killed and splash it on the tiny child, "baptizing" her or him in a bastardized version of the Christian ritual of dedicating a child unto God.
Lamonica also detailed for the shocked detectives some of the more supernatural aspects of these Satanic rituals. They were held, he said, in an upstairs room called the "Youth Room," whose windows were blackened so no one passing by outside could see in. Later, investigators on the case found that when they shined a blacklight on the seemingly-unmarked walls, they were actually covered in Scripture and passages from the Bible.
The Youth Room would be decorated and prepared for these Satanic rituals, which would start out like any church service. But instead of hymns, Satanic music would play as they lit the red candles and drew the pentagram on the floor. The rituals often involved sex - with each other or with children - and bodily fluids, such as blood and urine. Often, the members would incorporate animals into the rituals, wearing fox or wolf hair, or holding snakes and spiders. This would bring them in contact with demons, Lamonica said. And that's when it got eerie...
Some of them, literally because of demons, and I am including myself in all this, could be having sex with somebody...
When the detective asked for clarification, Lamonica explained how there would be physical changes to the orgiastic worshipers as the demonic spirits took control.
Lamonica and youth pastor Austin "Trey" Bernard confessed members of the church would pass their children around for other members to commit sex acts upon - some of the children were barely able to walk when they were first introduced to the rituals. And, rather than be ashamed of what they were doing, members of the church would confess what they had done with their own children and the children of other members, finding a twisted sort of pleasure in cataloging their increasingly depraved acts to one another.
The reality of the nightmare the children of the church had endured crystallized when Lamonica's two sons - sadly, the only two children who came forward to tell their story - drew pictures for the detectives to depict what had been done to them. The majority of the images were so chilling that the VICE documentary could only show a few, but those few speak for themselves.
While the investigators could find no hard evidence of the confessed animal killings or bestiality, there was plenty in the Youth Room to support the confessions of both Lamonica and Bernard about the unthinkable acts of sexual depravity and abuse church members inflicted upon their children. Both men were sentenced to life in prison and are currently serving out their concurrent life sentences. Still, because no other children would come forward (the Lamonica boys, years later, retracted their allegations of abuse, as is a common occurrence among traumatized survivors of sexual abuse) and because other church members struck plea deals in exchange for information about other members, the detectives know they only uncovered part of the truth. The true extent of the horror may never be known.
"I'd be a fool to sit here and think that we found out everything that happened in that church...What's scary is to wonder what we didn't find out..." said Murphy, who admitted he'd probably always be haunted by this case.
"There are things you just can't get out of your mind."