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With millions left in lockdown in the face of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it can be all too easy to get lost in spirals of depression and fear.
But for Damien Echols, a member of the West Memphis Three who infamously spent 18 years on death row for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas before later winning his freedom in the face of new DNA evidence, quarantine doesn’t have to mean unhappiness.
In a March 30 video on his YouTube channel, Crimson Lotus, Echols shared tips for keeping sane in the face of confinement.
The video is shot from the roof of Echols’s apartment in New York City, which has been hard-hit by the pandemic and whose residents have been urged to stay home. Unlike people in other places, who might be able to escape to their yards or nearby parks, Echols said many New Yorkers have nowhere to go but their apartment.
To cope with this, Echols recommended being more intentional about the things we pay attention to.
“If something is really stressing you out, making you anxious, maybe take a step away from the outside world for a while and focus on something that gives you hope and inspiration,” Echols said.
He warned against obsessing over negative news reports, and said that reading, watching and listening to more positive things helped get him through his time in prison.
Echols and two other teens, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, were arrested in 1993 for the murders of Stevie Edward Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore - all 8 years old. Authorities alleged the killings were done as part of a Satanic ritual.
All three were convicted. Misskelley and Baldwin received life sentences; Echols was sentenced to death.
But in 2011, after new DNA evidence had emerged casting doubt on the trio's guilt, the convictions were vacated and a new trial was ordered. The three entered into Alford pleas, which meant they maintained their innocence but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict. They were released from prison that year.
Since his release, Echols has published four books about magic and ritual, one of which is titled “High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row.”
He also runs a daily blog, creates original artwork and does tarot readings, according to his Patreon supporter page.
On his YouTube channel, Echols typically puts out vlogs about his current projects and thoughts on magic. Since the lockdown, however, he has started producing videos encouraging his followers to stay strong and offering advice on how to use magic and other techniques to keep up positive energies.
While he was on death row, Echols was often able to lose himself in his rituals – even forgetting he was in prison for long stretches of time, he said in one video.
Despite the circumstances, Echols remains hopeful.
“I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I really do believe that something good will come out of all this,” he said at the end of his March 30 video.
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