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Music

AC/DC and their connection to murderer Richard Ramirez

As with most things, music comes with its perks and pitfalls. Where many people find comfort and solace in their favourite playlists or get jiggy with it on the dance floor, others react to vibrations in the most brutal and deadly fashion imaginable. When AC/DC released their classic sixth studio album, Highway to Hell, in July 1979, someone took the satanic theme of the music far too seriously. 

Notorious Satanist and serial killer Richard Ramirez (AKA The Night Stalker) was 19 years old when he first stumbled across the Australian hard rockers’ devilish release and became instantly enamoured with its closing track ‘Night Prowler’. Six years later, aged 25, Ramirez had been linked to more than 15 brutal murders as well as rapes and further attempted cases in California, USA. As the trial unravelled, prosecuting authorities pursued a line of enquiry linking the murders to AC/DC and their hit track ‘Night Prowler’. 

The song’s lyrics set an ominous scene of an attacker operating in the dead of night with ill-intent. It culminates in a scene of horror as the titular prowler tells the listener to “watch out tonight” before breaking into the victim’s home and telling them, “there ain’t nothin’ you can do.”

The troubled murderer confirmed himself as a Satanist during one of his court hearings as he took the stand and shouted “Hail Satan” while holding up his palm to reveal a pentagram drawing. 

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As the trial progressed, the court revealed that Ramirez was a big AC/DC fan, as testified by the murderer’s friend, Ray Garcia. The court also heard that the law enforcement authorities found an AC/DC-themed baseball cap at one of the crime scenes that was thought to belong to Ramirez. 

At the time of the trial, rumours arose that the band’s name stood for Anti-Christ / Devil’s Child. Despite the devilish theme of the album’s title track and the cover artwork, AC/DC’s lead guitarist Angus Young responded to the band’s link to the crimes and explained that their name had nothing to do with the Anti-Christ. “It came from the back of my sister’s sewing machine,” he insisted. 

Ostensibly, ‘Night Prowler’ had an impact on Ramirez, and it thematically runs parallel to some of Ramirez’s crimes; however, at the time of the court hearing, the press were linking AC/DC to the case, accusing them of being practising Satanists as the well-known ‘Satanic Panic’ gripped America. 

At the time, the press circled in on the band, focussing on the hat found at one of the crime scenes. The band stood firm, stating that the accusations had no leverage and that ‘Night Prowler’ wasn’t intended to inspire serial killers. 

Regarding the band’s link to the murders, Young commented, “I don’t know why they zeroed in on us. I could never see those connections myself.”

It seems that the press put unfair pressure on the Aussie band during the trial and deflected the case from the man responsible. “The press assumed an awful lot, and the press put a lot more to the significance of the hat than the homicide investigators,” detective Gil Carillo stated.

Watch the documentary below for further details on the Richard Ramirez serial murder case.