Vandals strike historic church

Salem Black River spray painted with ‘Satanic’ references

BY JIM HILLEY AND ADRIENNE SARVIS
jim@theitem.com, adrienne@theitem.com
Posted 10/1/17

Members of Salem Black River Church spent Friday cleaning up the work of vandals who struck one of South Carolina's most historic churches Thursday night.

Dick Dabbs said the vandalism was discovered Friday morning and reported to Sumter County …

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Vandals strike historic church

Salem Black River spray painted with ‘Satanic’ references

Posted

Members of Salem Black River Church spent Friday cleaning up the work of vandals who struck one of South Carolina's most historic churches Thursday night.

Dick Dabbs said the vandalism was discovered Friday morning and reported to Sumter County Sheriff's Office.

The vandals spray painted what appeared to be Satanic symbols and references on the inside of the church's front columns as well as on sidewalks and many doors on the church and other buildings on the property. No structural damage was reported, and the vandals did not appear to have gained entry to the church.

After the sheriff's office visited the scene, church members began cleaning up the graffiti.

"We called several people, and it was a group consultation, and we decided to get to work on it," Dabbs said as he scrubbed one of the church's columns.

Dabbs said the church members wanted to have the damage cleaned up as much as possible before a funeral scheduled Friday afternoon.

Another member of the congregation who asked not to be identified said the church has been vandalized before, often around Halloween.

The church has been targeted in the past by people who supposedly practice Satanic rituals around that time, Sheriff Anthony Dennis said. There was even an incident before where people did rituals in the graveyard, he said.

But there haven't been any incidents at that church in recent years, he said.

"People think the church is haunted," the church member said. "Of course that's not true."

She said the church was built in 1846 and was the fourth church to stand on the spot.

A historical marker on the scene says the congregation was founded in 1759 by Irish settlers who built a log meeting house, which was replaced in 1768 with a frame building.

The first brick structure was built in 1802, the marker says.

The church was reportedly on a list of churches scouted by white supremacist Dylann Roof before he murdered nine black church members at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015.

Dennis said investigators are actively searching for the suspects.

Dennis said Friday's incident resulted in $3,000 to $5,000 in damage to the property. Nothing inside the church was damaged, but it seems that the suspects tried to kick in the front door, he said.

He said investigators think the suspects are local.

Dennis said he does not know of any reason why anyone would target the charge for that kind of activity other than rumors that the church is haunted. But that's just a rumor, he said.