It started with a Twitter thread, as all silly stories do.
A disgruntled Airbnb guest recently went viral after showcasing some spooky ornaments from a rented room in a Twitter thread, and demanding a refund from Airbnb.
The Twitter thread was filled with photographic evidence of the unspeakable, eldritch horrors of that room; a photo of a topless woman (gasp), a spooky Halloween candle, a wind-up toy of a cartoon dog having sex with a woman, and a small statue of Baphomet, associated with the Church of Satan.
The thread was created by Frederick Joseph, marketing CEO and author of The Black Friend, who, funnily enough, is already “Twitter famous,” as the guy who posted the infamous “Elizabeth Warren Barbershop” tweet, prompting mass mockery and sparking a minor conspiracy theory.
Upon absorbing Joseph’s Airbnb thread, the internet did what it does best, and overreacted, snowballing into a level of Satanic Panic not seen since the eighties, when frantic parents lost their minds over Dungeons & Dragons.
One Twitter user even suggested that an innocuous outdoor bathtub, advertised in photos of the property, seemed “convenient for bloodletting outside and washing away evidence.”
Who’d have thought that having a crude sense of humor, and a taste for the marcarbe, could invoke such a reaction?
The official Twitter account of the Church of Satan even stepped in to confirm that nothing in the house was being used for Satanic ritual, stating:
“The photos in this thread depict thrift store curiosities & hot topic kitsch, not evidence of satanic rituals. Sounds like you have an overactive imagination and can’t tell the difference between supernatural horror movies and reality.”
It should also be mentioned that this bizarre, Rosemary’s Baby perspective of Satanism is false. Satanism, as practised by members of the Church of Satanism, is simply a form of atheism, with fun aesthetics – no ritualistic blood sacrifices.
Indeed, the idea of a person believing in the entirety of Christian canon, then deciding to worship the “bad guy,” subsequently damning themselves for eternity, seems like an odd life choice, to say the least.
Joseph’s peculiar beef with Airbnb was quickly picked up by Vice News, as Senior Staff Writer Anna Merlan published a piece debunking the claims of Satanic rituals being performed in the space, with the help of the host of the rental, who called the accusations “unsettling and weird.”
Joseph angrily responded to the article on Twitter, prompting a lengthy debate between Merlan and Joseph, in which racial tension, goth aesthetics, journalistic integrity and conspiracy theories were blended together in one surreal exchange, sparked from a single, spooky Airbnb rental.
It seems as though this was a simple story of paranoia, expanded by the delusion-amplifier that is Twitter. And to be fair, things are really quite strange at the moment; this year has seen a plague, swarms of locusts, and most recently, a blood-red sky across California.
It’s all a bit … biblical, so perhaps we can’t blame people for freaking out at the sight of a small Baphomet statue.