Let’s not jump to conclusions about that “twisted shrine” in Loughner’s backyard

Posted on January 11, 2011

Quite a bit of talk has been generated by the New York Daily News posting of an exclusive picture they took in Jared Loughner’s backyard.  It shows a toy skull in a flower pot with blackened shriveled oranges and three candles nearby. The picture is below:

If you click through their slide show, The New York Daily News captions the photo as a revelation of “a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman.”  The News reports that experts say these types of items are “are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.”  While I know very little to nothing about occult groups, I hesitate to jump to the same conclusion.

Why?  Because these same types of elements are also used in Day of the Dead celebrations.  For those of you who are not familiar with Day of the Dead celebrations, here’s a Wikipedia description:

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a holiday celebrated by many in Mexico and by some Mexican Americans living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration occurs on November 2 in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.

More information about this holiday can be found at the University of North Carolina. But if you click here you can see a photo from their website showing a part of a Day of the Dead altar.  It shows a skull, candles, marigolds, and other personal items.    The same type of items found in Loughner’s backyard.

The Day of the Dead holiday is also well known and highly celebrated in the town of Tucson as evident from a Arizona Daily Star article:

But in Tucson we have the good fortune to celebrate more than simply Halloween. We draw on our heritage and culture and celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

Tucson’s culture is a mix of the people who have lived in this area for centuries and those who have arrived more recently. One of the best things about our community is the blend of traditions, customs and cultures that intermingle to create a vibe that is uniquely Tucson. It’s what separates us from cities that appear, on the outside, to be so similar.

We have Tucson Meet Yourself, the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, the Downtown Holiday Parade and other community events — and we can’t forget University of Arizona sporting events. These events bring people together to take part in what makes Tucson special.

But it’s how our community celebrates our version of Dia de los Muertos that truly pulls Tucson’s past into the present.

While Loughner is not Mexican, he did seem open to different types of ideas (I’m thinking of his favorites mentioned on his reading list).  Is it possible that this “twisted shrine”  just may be the remnants from a Day of the Dead altar from November of last year he may have built?  Or possibly,  it could even be  something his parents may have erected since it hasn’t been reported who’s responsible for the items.    If it was erected back in the beginning of November, that would explain why the oranges in the “shrine” are now shriveled up and blackened as well as why there are is skull and candles.

What I’m getting at is that we while we like to fill in the blanks with our own theories, we need to wait and see what evidence is uncovered.


Posted in: Arizona, Crime