A sinister shrine reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman accused of shooting a member of Congress and 19 others.
Hidden within a camouflage tent behind Jared Lee Loughner's home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges.
A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby, photos reveal.
Experts on Sunday said the elements are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.
Investigators have focused on Loughner's online anti-government ramblings as the chief motivation for the shooting Saturday of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
The discovery of the shrine raises the possibility that Loughner, 22, may have been driven by other forces. Students and faculty at Pima Community College, which he attended until his suspension last summer, said Loughner was clearly at odds with the world.
"He was one of the last kids tocome in, and he sat down and almost immediately started laughing to himself in a way that was just kind of creepy," a classmate, Alex Kotonias, 20, told USA Today.
"As soon as the teacher started going over the syllabus, he had this outburst out of nowhere, didn't even raise his hand, and started asking the teacher some sort of weird questions about whether he believed in mind control."
Adjunct Prof. Ben McGahee, 28, worried about violence. "I remember going home and thinking to myself, 'Is he going to bring a weapon to class?'" he told USA Today.
Lynda Sorenson, 52, who was in McGahee's basic algebra class with Loughner, expressed similar fears in emails to friends, The Washington Post reports.