Column – Cults and privies

Published 6:53 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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The world was in a state of change at the beginning of 1991. American forces stormed into the Persian Gulf region and broke the forces of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The dictator had claimed the small nation of Kuwait for his country. The battle took about a month’s time.

On Christmas Day, the Russian flag replaced that of the familiar sickle and hammer above the Kremlin in Moscow. 

Meanwhile in Suffolk, the news of the early ’90s was perhaps less life-changing, though many in Huntersville and Hollywood may disagree. In January 1991, a $256,000 Indoor Plumbing Program Grant from the Virginia Housing Partnership Fund shed light on a number of residents in Huntersville and Hollywood whose homes had inadequate or no indoor plumbing systems. The Indoor Plumbing Program targeted households using pit privies and failing septic systems. A survey taken by the Department of Community Development showed that 798, or 5%, of the houses in Suffolk were without indoor plumbing. 

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At the beginning of summer, a couple of police officers opened a side business selling hot dogs. Law Dogs were the special variety of hot dogs sold by Officers D.M. Livingston and C.A. Hines. The officers advertise their products as “all bark, no bite.” It seems that while the two officers worked the streets they often discussed where they could establish a hot dog stand in the city. The Law Dog stand was located at the Municipal Building. 

While the people of Suffolk enjoyed hot dogs, the following year, stale pastries were used to attract another native Suffolk resident. In October of 1992, wildlife researchers began trapping bears In the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge as part of a three-year taxonomic study of black bears in the southeastern United States. They only captured two bears for studies in the Great Dismal, because the animals apparently did not care for stale pastries. Refuge Manager Lloyd Culp said that of the 16 subspecies of black bears found in North America, three are found in the southeast, including the area of the Great Dismal Swamp. 

In April of 1993, in the wake of the siege at Waco Texas, cults were a part of household discussion. Several seminars were held with different groups to discuss the cults. One such was documented in late April. Members of the Law Enforcement Explorer Scout Post No. 124 recently attended a unique seminar that both shocked and educated them about the dangers of becoming involved in cults. The seminar was prompted by the actions of David Koresh and the “Branch Davidians,” the religious sect in Waco, Texas that held law enforcement at bay for nearly two months before a fire broke out in the compound, killing 82 cult members. 

Officer Bremer explained that Suffolk is one of the few Hampton Roads jurisdictions where police worked a Satanic cult. During 1991, Officer Bremer investigated a case involving animal sacrifices and grave tampering when a young man broke into a 57-year-old grave and cut a finger from the body of the woman buried there. Officer Bremer found the missing finger at the young man’s home along with some other evidence, including a small coffin containing a plastic skeleton. 

Graves weren’t the only thing getting robbed. That summer, thieves took everything including the kitchen sink. Suffolk Police Detective J.A. Coleman was seeking help from the public in identifying the thieves who were removing plumbing fixtures, carpets, doors and other Items from vacated homes in the Lake Kennedy area of the city. 

As the city prepared for the holiday season in 1993, Andy Damiani, president of the Downtown Suffolk Association, announced that members of that organization, businesses, were being asked to play Santa Claus. The city would soon be preparing to decorate for Christmas. Damiani noted that just as sure as the holidays roll around each year, the decorations have been hung, but without much glee In the past few years. That’s because some of the decorations are in desperate need of repair. “Some of the decorations that go up year after year are as old as Santa Claus himself,” said Damiani, a former mayor and city councilman of this city.