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Talk centers on dangers of occult

July 19, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

HALFWAY - Hagerstown Police Sgt. Jack Hall believes everyone dabbles in mysticism sometime in their lives and he says that's OK.

Tarot cards, Ouija boards, fortune tellers and role-playing games are harmless ways to experiment with the supernatural. But when such diversions become a preoccupation they can become dangerous, said Hall.

"There's nothing wrong with playing Dungeons & Dragons for an hour once or twice a week, but if a kid starts playing it eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week, it's a problem," he said.

Hall spoke to teenagers and their parents about the dangers and warning signs of activity in occult or hate groups during a presentation at the Noland Village Community Center on Noland Drive Monday evening. The free lecture was sponsored by the Washington County Health Department.

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Occult activity and hate groups don't have large followings in Washington County but should be taken seriously, he said.

"It's not a problem until it becomes a problem and a crime is committed," Hall said.

Members of such groups try to enlist new recruits by preying on loneliness and fears and by making teenagers believe their feelings are abnormal, Hall said.

"Don't let them use your fears to make you do something you typically wouldn't do," he said.

People who would force such aberrant behavior on you aren't your friends, he said.

Pam Groves of Hagerstown attended the lecture with her son Tyler, 6 months.

Groves is planning ahead to make sure Tyler never joins a cult or racist group, she said.

"I want to know what to look for and be able to intervene," she said.

Young people at risk are those who have emotional problems, low self-esteem or display negative obsessive-compulsive behavior, according to Hall.

One sign is the presence of occult or racist literature, he said.

People generally get involved in such activity around 12 or 13 years of age and stop around age 19, he said.

"Why does it end? When they have to get a job, they don't have the time for it," he said.

Racist activity often begins with the school year and continues until Halloween then drops off during the winter months, he said.

"It's an outdoor activity," he said.

Hall said more teens are involved in such activities because they have more time on their hands than previous generations. Chemical imbalances, the need to rebel, abuse or mental illness can contribute, he said.

Cheree Lowman, 14, of Hagerstown, said she was glad she attended the lecture.

"It's good for kids my age to hear," she said.

She said she is aware of four girls at her school who are involved in witchcraft. Lowman knows what to do if asked to participate.

"I just walk away," she said.

* Hall will present his lecture on the occult and racism again on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Family Center at the corner of Devonshire Road and Washington Street.

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