Murders, satanic rituals, explosives, mobster dealings, love relationships, local Ku Klux Klan members, wife beatings, and familial ties combine to make this book a roller coaster of ecstasy and tragedy, of thrill and anger, of humor and passion. Reporters have called the crimes embedded within Charlotte Laws's 2018 nonfiction novel, Devil in the Basement, "the most shocking in the history of West Virginia." The bare bone facts made headlines across the nation in 1948, but no one ever researched the slew of scandalous, simmering, and heart-wrenching details, until now – until this book. Having worked as a private eye (and even with the FBI), Charlotte Laws used her skills to track down anybody who had knowledge of the events.
This story is about her family – her birth family. She was raised in Atlanta, Georgia as an adopted child and learned the true identities of her natural parents in her late twenties. Laws met her half-siblings five years ago and was given a shadowy sketch of the sordid tale that involved her grandfather and some of her kin in Fairmont, West Virginia. She flew to the area twice and met with a slew of cousins, as well as other witnesses to the mind-boggling events of the past. Touring the location of the eerie rituals, she observed bomb blast residue that has not been repaired to this day. She was shown a murder weapon, satanic carvings, and photos of a creepy, life-sized doll – that, in the mind of one man, conspired with him to carry out heinous deeds.
Devil in the Basement is not just about Laws's family. It is also about their neighbor, Ernie Lee Russell Yost (1904 – 1948), who lived in the run-down house around the corner and was one of the first documented Satanists in the United States. He murdered two people – Nellie Marie Yost (his wife) and Tucker Rock Moroose (Laws's grandfather) – and set off bombs in Fairmont.
Devil in the Basement is a story of love and horror, racism and hope, of Christian piety and satanic ritual. It is a book that shines a light on one of the most ghastly real life incidents in West Virginia history. It is a story you will never forget. Don't miss Charlotte Laws at the Arkansas Literary Festival on April 28, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. in CALS Ron Robinson Theater.