A survivor shares a warning against criminals preying on Pagans

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Content Warning:  This article describes acts of violence. 

TWH – In August TWH published a brief update about the convicted killer, Ivan Cales losing his second appeal and attempt to overturn his conviction for murdering Roxanne Houston in 2014.

The original trial story made national headlines, due in part to the allegations of Houston being Wiccan and associated with Witchcraft practices as the reason Cales murdered her. TWH followed the trial and covered Cales’ conviction in 2016.

One of the women Cales had a relationship with, prior to his move west to New Mexico, contacted TWH after seeing the update of his appeal having been denied. She wanted the community to understand a few things about Cales and raise awareness about what she feels is a particular vulnerability within the Pagan community when it comes to criminals like him.

She spoke to TWH on the condition of anonymity due to past harassment. TWH has used the pseudonym “Kathryn” in place of her actual name.

Cales was born in West Virginia and raised by a family that adhered to hardline Christian beliefs, but the family was also secretive and manipulative which Kathryn believes provided the foundation for how Cales modeled his own behavior. She said his family also believed that he “had the devil in him” and his mother at one point intended to throw Cales off a bridge and into a river when he was just a small child.

Image by Marine 69-71 CC BY-SA 4.0


Kathryn told TWH that Cales possessed the ability to be charming and engaging with people when he chose to–usually when he wanted something from them. She said it was these qualities that both caused her to be tangled up with him and what allowed him to be a part of various Pagan communities and remain largely unrecognized as a criminal and predator.

Cales’ ability to discuss ideologies and practices common within the Pagan and New Age communities, like women’s rights and issues of consent, was a manipulation so others perceived him as someone who ascribed to and supported those ideas. Kathryn told the TWH that in reality, Cales merely saw using language that would be approved of as a way to gain support for whatever his own agenda was at the time.

As for his spiritual or religious beliefs, Kathryn said he mirrored whatever beliefs he felt would be the most well-received. In Kathryn’s opinion, Cales really did not believe in anything other than getting his own way and the attention he desperately craved.

Cales’ constant desire for attention and always seeking some kind of validation was not dependent on whether the attention was good or bad, Kathryn commented. The cause was irrelevant, it was only receiving the attention that mattered. She said he likely reveled in being dubbed the “witch-hunter” killer since it brought notoriety and attention.

Throughout her relationship with Cales, Kathryn said he was obsessed with bones. A house he had shared with his ex-wife was later found to have a large number of bones that Cales had placed in the crawl space beneath the residence.

Cales obsession with bones is why Kathryn believes the reason Houston’s hands were never found.  She thinks he took them and buried them somewhere close to where he lived or someplace he could easily visit.

Kathryn stated that she wanted to share her story because she has seen how Cales and people like him have used the trust offered by the Pagan community to gain unfettered access to people they can manipulate to serve their own purposes.

Kathryn said that while Cales could project himself as being engaging and supportive, he was essentially devoid of any kind of compassion. Kathryn wants people, especially younger members of the Pagan community to be aware and wary of those who exhibit a lack of empathy or compassion because for her it was one of the early signs that Cales was not the person he purported to be.

Kathryn also said that she believes that many people new to Paganism and the broader Pagan community often have the expectation and idea that they are starting fresh on a new path where everyone is open and everything seems safe when the reality is that it is not.

Often those new to Pagan practitioners are younger or have little experience in magical practices, and are eager to both interact and learn from those who they perceive as having greater knowledge and experience. Without good leadership and guidance, those new to the community can be very susceptible to becoming entangled with someone who has less than altruistic intentions, like Cales.

Kathryn had this warning for the community, “You may think your house is completely safe because it is your house, but you still lock the door when you go to town. But don’t forget if [human] monsters were easily spotted or identified for what they were, they would not be monsters.”

Cales is not the first person who entered the Pagan community and was later found to be a criminal. But Kathryn cautioned that the open acceptance offered by the Pagan community is, and certainly for Cales was, an opportunity for criminals to exploit.

Kathryn shared her story to ensure the community increases its vigilance and violent individuals because there is no way to know how many others like him are out there. She hopes her story will warn others and avoid future tragedies. Meanwhile, Cales will remain in prison for murder.