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Friday, June 3, 2016

Lucifer's Return


I met the man in this mug shot twice in Montreal in the summer of 1969 or 1970 on a downtown street where he sometimes stood in a black cape, hawking copies of the glossy Process Church magazine, with its feature article on the recently arrested serial killer Charles Manson. In fact, both times I saw John Roland Stahl that summer, I stopped to chat. I was 18 or 19, he was 22 or 23 — flamboyant, androgynous, charming, handsome, articulate — as he spoke of the unity of God and the Devil. I had the sense he was recruiting young people who stopped to talk to him, with inspired revolutionary zeal and Luciferian appeal. In those days he had rock star looks -- his dark shoulder length hair pulled back in a pony tail, his smile wide and generous. Still, I knew to stay away from people like 'King John' which was what he called himself back then.

Recently I heard he also ran a bar called The Image, on Park Avenue, around the corner from where I lived as a student. So we were neighbours and probably knew people in common. He oozed counter-cultural refinement that set him apart, and I had a soft spot for that kind of fallen angel. Later I wondered what became of him and who he really was -- Now I know.

Among other things, he became an artisanal paper maker in Mendocino County, California, and a known sexual predator. The hippie movement had plenty of charlatans like him and he played the part with flair. In the early 2000s, he moved to southeast Asia and when arrested in 2013, he was running another hip cafe, the Cafe Noir, on the beach in Sihanoukville, known as a hangout for foreigners and a place where young local boys came to play chess. Stahl was teaching some of these kids -- many of whom lived from collecting trash at the dump -- the art of papermaking. On his blog he sometimes expounded on "intergenerational relationships" -- making no secret of his pedophilia. Eventually the authorities caught up with him and he was deported back to California in 2013 for failure to register as a sex offender. In January 2016, he was reincarcerated for violating his parole conditions and remains in prison.

Married twice and the father of two children(his second wife died of cancer), he worked with youth, spreading his ‘gospel.’ Back in the sixties in Montreal he was a draft dodger, one of hundreds who crossed into Canada so they would not have to go to Vietnam. So it makes sense, maybe, that he would end up in Cambodia where another veteran of Montreal's downtown scene, Oscar Sanchez, turned up later. Sanchez died recently of "swollen feet" and was found by police keeled over on the toilet at his rented house in Sihanoukville, a seaside town known as a magnet for men looking for child sex. In the 1990s, Sanchez had worked with youth in Vancouver's Portage program,, and friends describe in stellar terms as 'an unforgettable man' and 'a comet in my life.' A photo shows several boys seated outside a lit-up front door at Sanchez' cement residence.

I didn't know Sanchez, but I knew some of his friends, e.g. painter Stephen Lack and filmmaker Alan Moyle, who acted in the 1974 movie Montreal Main, about drugs and pedophilia. It's a lifestyle that has been introduced since the 1950s, by intelligence cults like the Process Church. The trend is obvious when you look at how the counterculture was not just infiltrated, but set up and promoted, by mainstream media including the CBC and National Film Board of Canada.

John Stahl is also hard to forget. Young boys, his victims of choice, and their clueless parents, had a way of getting lured into his charmed circle and he was seen by some as 'a great guy'. It feels eerie to find him again after all these years. He stands out in my memory like a street corner mime, or possibly an unwitting front man for something sinister that keeps expanding. The photo below, which I can't get to stand upright for some reason, appears to have been taken years ago in his cafe on the beach, with a young boy seated behind him. Viewing it on my phone, I mistook the foot resting yogically on his thigh for an erect penis. I think this is intentional: a way to insinuate sex and rise above it at the same time. So it was, back in 1969, when we flirted on Ste Catherine Street. Maybe I felt sorry for the black-cloaked elf hawking a glossy Satanic magazine that nobody wanted. That could be why I stopped to talk to him: to demonstrate my nonchalance, or sympathy for the devil. I inquired about the Baphomet symbol, combined with a cross, dangling from his neck and he delivered an inspired and enthusiastic response, suggesting I read Hermann Hesse's novel Demian to find out more about the God, Abraxas. We bantered back and forth for several minutes. I flirted with a 22 year old future child molester dressed up in a devil costume in broad daylight on a busy street corner and never saw him again. -- And here he is, 45 years older, sending emails from prison.