The Last Pentacle of the Sun: Writing in Support of the West Memphis Three
Ronald Charles Epstein is a Toronto-based freelance writer and published poet.
This book was published to raise funds for “The West Memphis
Three”—Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin.
These three Arkansas youths were nonconformist “metalheads” who
lived in a fundamentalist Christian community across the river from
When three boys were savagely murdered, the trio were convicted on the
basis of community fears of Satanic rituals, not on the evidence. Echols
received the death penalty, and the others are now serving life
Their plight inspired various writers to contribute essays, short
stories, song lyrics, and illustrations to this anthology. Contributors
include familiar horror authors Peter Straub and Clive Barker, as well
as the radical comedian Margaret Cho. Penn State University history and
religious studies instructor Philip Jenkins provides a historical
perspective on “Satanic Panic,” while Peg Aloi offers the insights
of “a practicing witch and pagan activist.”
The essays’ contributions are obvious, but some of the short
stories’ links have to be discerned. In John Pelan’s
“Homecoming,” the narrator, who revisits his home town after
“Jory, a witch-man” is lynched after being falsely accused of
murdering a local girl, discovers that Jory’s family used witchcraft
to shield the town from a malign swarm of flies (the population was
decimated after they eliminated their protector). Since no evil spirits
will retaliate if Echols is executed, readers may conclude that framing
the innocent may have subtler, but equally real, consequences.
Other stories, such as Bentley Little’s “We Find Things Old,”
contain no special message. This tale of a figure discovered in a
derelict Mojave Desert commune that becomes a cursed studio prop serves
its cause by attracting more conventional horror fans. All contributors
crusade in their own way.
This collection contains enough talent to succeed on an artistic
level, but until this case is resolved, one cannot yet judge its