An AirBnB User Created a Modern-Day “Satanic Panic” After an Uncomfortable Trip September 11, 2020

An AirBnB User Created a Modern-Day “Satanic Panic” After an Uncomfortable Trip

Last week, writer Frederick Joseph tweeted about an AirBnB location he stayed at which had some unexpected objects in the home. He called them “seemingly satanic items and stuff for witchcraft rituals.”

Forbes’ Dani Di Placido sarcastically summarized the so-called horrors:

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.

A couple of those items, the sexual ones, are problematic for AirBnB. More on that in a moment. But that wasn’t the real issue here. Joseph’s complaint was that the pictures on AirBnB didn’t include those items and it was essentially false advertising. When he arrived, there were all sorts of things that “looked like devil worship.” Another commenter chimed in to say that an outdoor tub on the property was “convenient for bloodletting outside and washing away evidence.”

It’s similar to the conservative Christian conspiracy theory that went dangerously viral in the 1980s.

Joseph said AirBnB refused to refund his money, saying that a representative spoke to the owner who said “there were just a few small art pieces that they could come remove.”

That seemed appropriate across the board. You’re staying at someone’s home (or a place they own designated for that purpose). It’s bound to have personal items that you wouldn’t necessarily have in your own house. That’s part of the charm. I recently stayed at an AirBnB that I wasn’t personally thrilled with, but the listing wasn’t inaccurate. It just wasn’t a good fit for me. I sure as hell wouldn’t demand a refund over that. And that wouldn’t change even if I found a Bible or other religious relics lying around. It doesn’t change the fundamentals of the place itself.

More to the point: None of this is necessarily Satanic! It might just be some random stuff in a house that this temporary visitor took to some weird extreme.

Even the Church of Satan — no relation to The Satanic Temple — said as much in a blunt response:

They added in a subsequent tweet, “if you aren’t comfortable with various personal aesthetics you should stay at a hotel, not someone’s house.”

VICE’s Anna Merlan later spoke with the owner of that home, who confirmed nothing “Satanic” was going on inside.

They [the items] are not Satanic,” the host, whose name is Alex, told Motherboard on a video call from the house. “They’re kitsch. None of it is occult. You can get this stuff at a bodega.”

But VICE also added that Joseph was eventually refunded to the tune of nearly $1,000 — not because there was any connection to Satan, but because the sexual items do violate AirBnB’s policies.

In a statement, Airbnb told us, “Frederick was fully refunded this morning, and we apologize for the delay in providing support. Our policy prohibits sexually explicit images within our listings, and we are currently working with the host to help ensure he is in compliance.” (Alex was able to show us that he provided the refund, not Airbnb.)

The story didn’t end there, though. Joseph later suggested that VICE story was racist, saying Merlan was invalidating his experience as a Black man… which seems like a stretch. His discomfort over someone else’s supposed (and ultimately untrue) religious rituals, and whether a business should be responsible for that, is at the heart of this story. The fact that he’s Black wasn’t relevant here, even if it added another dimension to the issue. His initial tweets echoed the same sorts of complaints conservative Christians have made about everything from microchips to vaccines.

At least The Church of Satan got the last laugh here. They have receipts from Joseph.

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