The Sussex Devils
By Marc Heal
The Satanic Panic Of The 1980s – A Memoir And A Mystery Story
Publication date: October 2015
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'Heartbreaking and breathtaking. The terrors of the real world are incomprehensible. Take a moment to consider preordering a copy of his book'. Comment on The Sussex Devils by Horror legend Clive Barker, author of Hellraiser
Thirteen years after I quit music, I stumbled across a yellowed fragment of The Guardian from early 1986 in the bottom of a trunk full of old studio tapes.
The cutting concerned the court case of a man named Derry Mainwaring Knight. He claimed that he was a senior member of a secret Satanic group operating at the highest levels of British society. Helped by a local priest, John Baker, vicar of the Sussex village of Newick, Knight had raised large sums from wealthy local gentry on the pretext of destroying powerful items of Satanic regalia and subvert the cabal from within.
I threw away the piece of newspaper. It made me deeply uneasy, and I did not remember why I would have saved it. But the story nagged at me. I started asking myself about the Knight affair. I recalled almost nothing about his trial – even though I had grown up at the epicentre of the story. My family had known the Reverend Baker well and I had been a close friend of his eldest son, David. I had witnessed the panic over Satanism and the contemporary hysteria generated in Sussex religious meetings: speaking in tongues, prophesy, and healing. Why did I know so much about the people in the story and yet I recalled so little about it?
Finally, I faced up to the reason for the blank: the trial had taken place in the weeks immediately after the defining trauma of my life.
In December 1985 an elder from my parents’ evangelical Christian church attempted to exorcise me from what he suspected was my possession by demons. I could hardly blame him. I was drunk, crazed and mumbling about a terrible city made of iron on a vast, featureless plain.
My parents were “born again” in 1981. I found their conversion to “Charismatic” Christianity alarming but to begin with it had little impact on my day-to-day life. But I was about to experience a very real psychological trauma. At a religious rally that I unwillingly attended in 1984 at the Loftus Road football stadium, I experienced the first of the panic attacks that were later to dominate my life. Anxiety is a relatively modern condition, now much discussed, but in 1984 I had never heard the term. In my dreams and eventually by day, my mind was invaded with monsters that assimilated all humanity, of tortures and wounds upon vast plains of human remains, the insane violence of the iron city, all garbled and choked in a never-ending loop. I became so disturbed that I fulfilled a symptomatic checklist of “possession”, and needless to say, that was the Evangelical diagnosis.
In THE SUSSEX DEVILS I first set out to write the story of Derry Knight and his allegations of a Satanic cabal at the heart of the British establishment. Yet, when I began the process, I found myself wondering what exactly had happened back then to me.
In the book I will tell these two stories in parallel. It is difficult to understand now but the Satanic moral panics of the 1980s were as powerful as the current panics about child abuse. Why, for a brief moment in history, did these fears dominate, and what did it mean – for me, my friends and the wider world?
As best I could, I pieced together the story – of Derry Knight, of my own coming-of-age, of the broader Satanic panic – and asked myself: who were the real Sussex Devils?
Pledge at the £40 level to receive your ticket to a party at Fortress Studios, London N1 in late March / Early April 2015 (plenty of notice will be given). Featuring 4 DJs, drinks, a signed copy of The Compound Eye EP, a 1st edition hardback of The Sussex Devils and more!
Jared Louche (Prude / Chemlab)
Raymond Watts (PIG)
Marc Heal (Cubanate / MC Lord Of The Flies)
Phil Barry (Be My Enemy / Cubanate)
Free Drinks until 11pm
Signed Copy of The Compound Eye EP (plus a digital copy)
Hardback of The Sussex Devils (plus a digital copy)
Compound Eye T-Shirt
Other stuff TBD