Religion makes people do some pretty crazy things, such as a Utah family which purposely took an overdose of drugs because they feared the end of the world was nigh. Benjamin and Kristi Strack and three of their four children, aged 11, 12 and 14, were found locked into a bedroom in their Springfield, Utah home, tucked into bed and dead of an overdose of methadone, heroin or a combination of drugs that were found in the medicine cabinet. The coroner concluded that the parents committed suicide and murdered their children.
Found in the house were letters which Kristi Strack had written to Dan Lafferty, a prison inmate who was found guilty of killing people in the name of God and is serving a life sentence. The story was told in the 2003 Jon Krakauer book “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Lafferty murdered his sister Brenda and her 15-month old daughter because claimed to have had a religious revelation sanctioning the killings because of the victim’s resistance to his beliefs in polygamy.
“There seemed to be a concern about a pending apocalypse that the parents bought into,” Springville Police Chief J. Scott Finlayson said. “While some friends though that suicide may have been, or could have been, included in their plans, others believed they were going to move somewhere and live off the grid.” Benjamin had taken the week before the suicides off of work, his boss reported that he regularly took long stretches of time off for “family problems”.
Also found at the scene was a letter from one of the children to a friend, written several days before the suicide, where he said goodbye and said he suspected he’d be found dead. In speaking with friends and family members, “it became fairly apparent that the topic of ‘leaving’ this world was a fairly common theme,” said investigators.
I don’t know that anyone should be surprised that religious beliefs in the end of the world should drive the gullible to end their own lives and those of their children. What I don’t understand is that everyone realized they were a troubled family yet did nothing to stop it. The authorities were not notified, even though friends and family knew they were a potential suicide risk. Why are people so accepting of religious beliefs, even those that are actively and demonstrably dangerous? That’s another question we’ll ask again and again on Horror Show Sunday.