Ex-cop prowls N.Y. in search of pentagrams, sacrifices
The pentagram, for instance, is a basic occult symbol in which he sees more than just a five-pointed star. “It’s a person standing with outstretched arms,” he said. “And basically, it could mean the four elements: air, earth, fire and water. The top one is probably the most important — it means the spirit world.”
Once a street cop, now a police instructor, Quinones prowls New York looking for pentagrams and other occult graffiti on building walls, or the remains of animal sacrifices in city parks. Instead of Macy’s, Quinones browses witchcraft shops, keeping up with the state of the supernatural.
All in the line of duty, Quinones has collected instruments of the occult: tarot cards, candle figurines, vials filled with powders and potions. Some items came from people who have sworn off the worship of Satan. Others, including a scorched baby blanket, came from police. Quinones said the blanket was wrapped around a black cat and set afire (102K AIFF sound (blanket.aiff) or 102K WAV sound (blanket.wav)).
Contrary to the beliefs of some, Quinones said, few people who cast curses would go so far as murder. But some do. During a mid-80s killing spree through California, the notorious “night stalker,” Richard Ramirez, mutilated at least 13 people. In a chilling moment after his arrest, Ramirez flashed a pentagram on his palm.
“It doesn’t matter whether Satan exists or not, or demons or monsters or whatever,” said Quinones, explaining the psyche of the Satanist. “Because if I believe it, I’m going to act upon that belief. And you as an investigator, a parent or whatever, have to understand that.”
Quinones’ curiosity about the occult was sparked a decade ago, when he noticed an odd religious slant to police training brochures from a private company. He had seen relatives from Puerto Rico practice “santeria,” a benign form of mysticism, but he learned that Satanism can draw people, especially teenagers, into a dangerous world.
Quinones’ interest in the occult led him to get a doctorate in theology. He now speaks at churches and police seminars in and out of New York. During one of his training sessions, he wrote the word “occult” on an easel and told his students, “Basically, the word ‘occult’ means knowledge. … Knowledge of what? Knowledge of the supernatural.”
At New Jersey’s Middlesex County Jail, guards were eager to hear Quinones explain occult symbols they now see in so many inmates’ cells.
“We’ve been overwhelmed,” said Jail Operations Commander Capt. John Tevoli. ‘It’s important that the staff starts to understand what the mentality is, what the structure is, what the organization is.”
Quinones has fielded calls from as far away as Japan, where a spate of subway gas attacks has been blamed on cult members.
Cults and the occult are always evolving, Quinones said, and he wants to help people spot which signs are harmless and which are pure evil.
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