My name is Damien Echols, and in 1993 I was arrested for three counts of capital murder in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas. Nine months later I was sentenced to death, and spent almost 19 years on death row before being released in 2011 when new evidence came to light.
Prison is a dark and stagnant place. It’s filled with the most cold, horrendous energy you can imagine. It feels like a kind of psychic filth that penetrates into your very Soul.
This is a story about how I kept my sanity.
In 1993, when three eight year old boys were found murdered in my small town, attention immediately turned to me. Why? Because I was the town weirdo. I dressed in all black, had long hair, and listened to heavy metal music. As if this wasn’t enough to make me suspect in a small, hardcore fundamentalist town in the midst of the era of Satanic panic, I also practiced magick. Some of the most damning evidence brought against me during the trial was my love of knowledge of Crowley, and the fact that I owned Stephen King novels.
By the time I was released, I was doing meditation and ritual work for nearly eight hours a day
If you want to know more about the case, watch any of the Paradise Lost documentaries about it, as well as West of Memphis, the documentary I myself was a producer on.
You could also read my book, Life After Death.
For a huge chunk of my incarceration—nearly nine years—I was in a super maximum security unit prison, where I spent 24 hours a day in solitary confinement.
Solitary confinement is like living in a vacuum in which no comforts exist. You spend every single moment alone, with nothing to distract you from the horror of your situation and no contact with anything or anyone that can possibly provide you with a shred of hope. Time ceases to exist, as there is no way to mark its passage. Noon is the same as midnight. Christmas is the same as the Fourth of July. All you can do is sit with your fears, waiting for the next time the guards decide to hurt you. …