Jay’s Journal, written by “Anonymous,” and “edited” by Dr. Beatrice Sparks, is a book published in 1978, about a Utah County teenager who experimented with drugs and Satanism. Eventually, he becomes possessed by a demon called Raul, and subsequently takes his own life. The book became a tool many Utah County parents used to scare their sons and daughters away from occult and Satanic horse-play, and is a product of “Satanic Panic.”
It created what folklorists call an “invasive narrative.” This is where a story takes on a life of its own, and locals are forced to live with and respond to it in various ways, sometimes uncomfortably. These stories find their way into multiple-facets of life from multiple sources: home, church, the workplace water-cooler, the school-playground, etc., and become embellished a little more with each telling.
For a time, the house where the events took place, became a spot for Utah County legend tripping. This is where people venture to haunted-spots to hopefully have an encounter of their own. It was believed the house was covered with and full of “bloody pentagrams,” “dead animals,” “bones,” and “human sacrifices scattered about the abandoned house.”
The house was eventually fenced off, but that didn’t stop kids from hopping over to investigate. At one point, I was even caught trying to break in to get a closer look. I never did get a chance to explore the house myself. Today, an insurance agency occupies the spot where the home sat. It’s directly across the street from the Orem Dairy Queen and Harmons Grocery.
Fortunately or unfortunately for me, there was a time when I dated a girl who was obsessed with serial killers and occult murders. It was with her that I learned the “fakelore” behind it all. As a folklorist, I find it interesting that most people have never heard of it, including several of my academic mentors who lived locally during the Satanic Panic. It almost seems that with the destruction of the house, the legend was destroyed, too. People begin to forget.
This raises the question: does a story need a landmark to exist? The short answer is no. Not in all cases. On that note, does a story as localized as Jay’s Journal have enough strength in the oral-tradition to aid in a story’s survival? I’ve recently begun revisiting this story, and I remember the few times I visited the grave site of the actual boy that this book is based on, and remember seeing the vandalized headstone that marks it.
I do not know how accurate this is, but I remember being told that the headstone had been defaced multiple times, and that everytime it was repaired, it would just be damaged again, leading the family to throw up their hands in despair.
This part of the story might be nothing more than lore itself, but it would suggest that the story and lore of Jay’s Journal still lives in certain circles enough to perpetuate the continued vandalization of the grave site. I don’t know. I think the Jay’s Journal phenomena calls for further investigation, at least from a folklore perspective. How do these stories continue to live the way they do, and when do we just let a story die?
Out of respect for the families involved, I have intentionally left the name(s) of the person(s) that were involved with the few truths that built the foundation of the Jay’s Journal legend. There are other writings out there where the family is discussed in greater detail if you are curious to learn more.
Danny B. Stewart is a Utah based Folklorist and Tradition Bearer who has spent his life looking at and collecting local Folklore.
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