Since at least 1967, reports have surfaced throughout the United States of animals – but, chiefly, cattle – slaughtered in disturbing and bizarre ways. Organs are taken and significant amounts of blood are found to be missing. In some cases, the limbs of the poor cattle are broken, suggesting they have been dropped to the ground from a significant height. Evidence of extreme heat, to slice into the skin of the animals, has been found at mutilation sites. Eyes are removed, tongues are sliced off, and, typically, the sexual organs are gone. While the answers to the puzzle remain frustratingly outside of the public arena, theories abound. They include extraterrestrials, engaged in nightmarish experimentation of the genetic kind; military programs involving the testing of new bio-warfare weapons; and government agencies secretly monitoring the food-chain, fearful that something worse than “Mad Cow Disease” may have infected the U.S. cattle herd – and, possibly, as a result, the human population, too. Then, there is the matter of the Sons of Satan; a secret cult that engaged in the sacrifice of cattle to their lord and master, the Devil himself.
The story dates back to 1974 and an inmate of the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The year had barely begun when one of the prisoners at Leavenworth – a man named A. Kenneth Bankston – penned a letter to a well-known UFO investigator, Jerome Clark. Bankston’s reasoning for contacting Clark was simple enough: one year earlier, in 1973, Clark wrote an article on the cattle mutilation puzzle for Fate magazine. So, Bankston was looking for someone with whom he could share his story – a story focused on the aforementioned Sons of Satan. Given that the cattle mutilation hysteria was at its height in the mid-1970s, it’s not at all surprising that others, besides Clark, were also writing about the grisly mystery. One of them was Kevin D. Randle, a noted UFO authority. Randle’s article, “The Killer Cult Terrorizing Mid-America,” appeared in Saga, just shortly after Clark’s was published. Both men discussed the “cult” angle, which was gaining more and more interest.
Among those who was interested in the cattle mutilation problem – but who was not overly convinced that it had a connection to the UFO issue – was Dr. J. Allen Hynek, of the Center for UFO Studies. Hynek, at the time, was liaising with an agent of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – Donald E. Flickinger – who had a personal interest in UFOs. Flickinger, when approached by Hynek, agreed to undertake an investigation into the cattle mutilation controversy. While Flickinger did not find any evidence suggestive of a UFO connection to the cattle killings, he did note that “a certain pattern existed” when it came to the nature of the attacks, the removal of organs, and the significant blood loss. When Jerome Clark heard of Flickinger’s studies, he provided the BATF agent with copies of A. Kenneth Bankston’s correspondence. Bankston’s story was as eye-opening as it was controversial. The Sons of Satan was a powerful, very well hidden group that had seemingly endless funding and manpower and was led by a mysterious character, only referred to as “Howard.” The secret group was determined to provoke “hell on earth.” And the sacrificial rites were a way to ensure that Satan would aid in the group’s efforts to create hellish mayhem.
U.S. authorities did not dismiss Bankston’s story. In fact, the exact opposite was the order of the day. Flickinger wasted no time in calling the Minneapolis U.S. Attorney’s Office. When the facts were outlined, the office agreed that an investigation should proceed – and proceed quickly. As a result, Bankston and another inmate, a man named Dan Dugan, who asserted he was a member of the Sons of Satan, were moved from Leavenworth to another prison. Whereas Leavenworth was a high-security facility, the situation at the new jail was far more relaxed. Of course, one could make a very good case that Bankston and Dugan made the whole thing up, primarily as a means to make it appear they were trying to help clear up a very disturbing mystery – a mystery that the government dearly wanted clearing up. In other words, by helping the authorities, the pair hoped that as a “thank-you” they would be moved from the oppressive environment at Leavenworth – which is exactly what happened.
It must be said, however, that this does not mean the story of Bankston and Dugan was without merit. The story was detailed, plausible, and – as far as the police were concerned – was viewed as being far more likely than the sensationalized UFO explanation. Indeed, acting on the words of the two prisoners, law-enforcement officials approached numerous “Satanic cults” in the United States. Despite such approaches, the secret order of the Sons of Satan were never found or exposed. Today, the cattle mutilation mystery continues – and also remains steadfastly unresolved.