During times of mass tragedy, it’s natural for people to seek answers to difficult questions. In the wake of the Astroworld concert in Houston on Friday, many people have been asking why, exactly, eight concertgoers between the ages of 14 and 27 died. Some are questioning what happened in that crush of people, as Travis Scott took the stage. Others are asking if the culture of his shows — and of his notoriously aggressive mosh pits — should be reexamined. Still others are asking if there’s someone even more notorious than the Houston rapper who should be blamed: Satan.
On TikTok, where some videos have gained millions of views, typing “Astroworld” into the search bar generates “astroworld festival demonic” as one of the top suggestions. People have said the stage was shaped like an inverted cross leading to a portal to Hell, which they believe was represented by the arch-shaped set onstage. They also point to a shirt Scott wore at the show that depicts human figures walking through a door and emerging with what look like horns as further evidence that Scott was leading fans to hell and sacrificing people’s lives intentionally. A representative from TikTok said this content violates community guidelines and the company is working on taking action against it, “including within search suggestions.”
“If you don’t believe that there was nothing demonic about that whole concert, you are spiritually blind and I pray that God opens your eyes,” said a man in a post on TikTok that drew more than a million views in a day. Other signs people have pointed to online include eight pyrotechnic flames along the front of the stage, representing the eight initial victims of that night and a stage backdrop that read “See ya on the other side.”
“I’m a big fan of Travis Scott but this is some demonic ass shit,” one person Tweeted with a video of a fiery winged creature above Scott’s stage. “It’s making me rethink some things like is this what hell looks like.”
Other people have implied that Covid-19 vaccines — which have been shown in clinical trials to be safe and effective at preventing serious Covid infections — could be the cause of the deaths at the event. “Could be related, could not be, but adding this to the mix: Attendees needed to be fully [Vaxxed],” one user Tweeted. “Multiple in cardiac arrest…” (Ticket-holders needed to present proof of a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test to attend the festival.) Others suggested that the vaccine might respond to the sound of the live music at Scott’s show. “Jab plus 5g and frequency at concert = dead,” commented one TikTok user. Others have said authorities and the media are lying about the number of casualties because witnesses described seeing many people on the ground.
Conspiracy thinking is not uncommon following events of unfathomable tragedy. After a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, people like Inforwars’ Alex Jones spread the conspiracy theory that the massacre had been a hoax. (Jones was recently found liable for damages in several defamation lawsuits by victims’ families.) Research has also shown that people become more conspiracy-minded during times of uncertainty and stress, like a global pandemic, or during times of political and social unrest. Satanic conspiracy theories had their most recent heyday in the Satanic Panic of the late 80s and early 90s when several high-profile crimes were blamed on teenagers who supposedly worshipped the devil. Now, the ideas have found a fresh foothold in far-right groups like QAnon, which believes a devil-worshipping cabal of pedophiles threatens the nation’s children.
Scott released a statement and a video over the weekend offering condolences to the loved ones of the people who died. “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” he tweeted. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.” On Monday, Scott announced he would cover their funeral expenses. He has been named a defendant in 15 lawsuits so far. Some of the suits also name concert promoter Live Nation as well as Drake, claiming Drake, who joined Scott as a guest onstage, helped incite the crowd. Scott and Live Nation have said they’re cooperating with Houston authorities as they investigate the fatal incident.