If someone wants to release your evil spirits, cut and run, don’t cut yourself

Teacher tells students to cut and burn themselves to rid demons near St. Pete Pier

In what St. Petersburg police are calling a weird religious ritual, they have arrested 35-year old Danielle Harkins for encouraging several teenagers to cut and burn themselves.

The cutting was said to release evil spirits from their body, and the cauterizing of the wounds with fire was to prevent the spirits from getting back in.

According to authorities, she caused second-degree burns in an attempt to “brand” one of the students’ hands with a cigarette lighter.

Harkins was going through a difficult time, including a divorce, and she recently discovered religion.

Tip: Fark.com

Disturbing. It is not clear what “religion” they are talking about here. But any time “evil spirits” are mentioned, kids, you should turn run the other way. The person telling you this is haunted (by their own mental demons), not you.

  7 comments for “If someone wants to release your evil spirits, cut and run, don’t cut yourself

  1. June 14, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    I just made a very interesting discovery. As you may know, Google has been getting smarter by recognizing synonyms for words in search.

    So I just searched – Danielle Harkins Christian -, as I was curious as to her ideological background. And Google responded with Danielle Harkins in bold, and religous or religion in bold. In other words, Google’s search methods believe Christian to be synonymous with religion. If you switch out Christian for Muslim, or Jewish, this does not work. Go ahead and try it.

  2. Bob Jase
    June 14, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    “cauterizing of the wounds with fire was to prevent the spirits from getting back in.”

    Pointless really.

    Next time they sneeze the demons will just fly up their noses as they originally did. That’s why people say, “god bless you” after someone sneezes.

  3. Scott Hamilton
    June 14, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Why do you assume those are supposed synonyms? They are much more likely to be similar searches by the same people. In other words, the algorithm notes that people searching for “Danielle Harkins Christian” also search for “Danielle Harkin religion.” If “Muslim” and “Jewish” don’t rank as high it probably because that’s not what most people are searching for, as this story is really only of interest the American atheist community, judging from the comments.

  4. Scott Hamilton
    June 14, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Harkins worked for a Neighborhood Center close to the Vietnamese section of US 19, so I’m assuming these students are probably Vietnamese immigrants of some sort. I’ve never noticed that community to be particularly religious, especially compared to the trailer parks around it. I’m thinking Harkins was attracting extreme outcasts to her belief system, rather than it being anything sanctioned by the community on any level. “Close to the St. Pete Pier” is an odd reference for the police to make… I have to assume they either mean one of the parks at the base of the Pier, or possibly the Pier approach. Maybe the teens in question weren’t familiar with the area when they reported it to the police, so the police don’t know yet exactly where it happened.

  5. June 14, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    No, google will substitute words, as of a few years ago. It started with plurals (or lack there of). Search for something with a plural, you’ll get returns with or without (which was not always the case). When you get google returns, you’ll notice that the words you “searched” for will be bolded. For example, I just searched michael jackson christian, and bolded words in addition to michael jackson include Christ, Christian, and Christianity. I just did another search for someone I know, using Christian, and one of the returns had “religion” bolded. The same hit turned up when I searched for Muslim rather than Christian, but then it was for the actual word Muslim.

    I don’t think it’s a big plot. I suspect it is instead a mirror of content in English, in this country. But it is still interesting as to what it would direct people to. Personally, I hate the word replacement feature, as I’m old enough to have used older search engines and catalogs and know to more carefully select words and phrases to get what I’m looking for.

  6. Scott Hamilton
    June 15, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Again, all those results are not necessarily synonyms. The algorithm works, generally, by looking at what input people type, and what results they click through to. So if lots of people go to page A after entering “Michael Jackson Christ” and lots of people also go to page A after entering “Michael Jackson religion” the algorithm assumes that person looking for one may be looking for the other. The algorithm is not making any judgement of meaning, so it’s not a matter of synonyms. It’s just popularity.

  7. Scott Hamilton
    June 15, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    A bit more detail is included in this article.


    I’m perplexed how anyone could set a fire “near the St. Petersburg Pier” without it being noticed. Dusk on Saturday, that area is hopping.

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