Exorcists Take Over

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I always wanted to read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I wanted to know how scenes from the movie looked in written word. How did he use vocabulary to express the sights and sounds and smells? When I found an audio version, read by the author himself no less, I snatched it!

I will tell you that there is no other way to delve into a book about demon possession other than with an audio version. I got chills from the places of the text where the demon speaks. At one or two points I felt like I should pull my earbuds out and douse them in holy water! Weirdly, this book became my soundtrack as I trained for a 10K and anticipating the next installment served as wonderful motivation to get that next workout in.

As I was deep in the midst of my unique routine, I heard that FOX was making a television series based on The Exorcist. I was very curious to find out how the writers of the television series would develop their storylines. On the premier evening, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch. My men were out at an overnight campout, and I was alone with my girls. It might sound weird, but it was the first time I found myself without my spouse overnight since my home security system, a large German Shepherd named Carmen, passed away. What if I freaked myself out and in turn scared my girls? As is true most times, my need to know won out.

I tucked them into the family room with a Disney movie and crept up the stairs to my room. I wanted to turn the volume low on the TV, I didn’t want them to overhear it, but it was stormy out, and the wind was howling through the eaves of the house. I adjusted the volume so I could hear and hoped the sound wouldn’t carry over the happy sounds of Disney.

The opening scenes with the lone priest walking through a ghetto, dark things scurrying in the shadows, and screams in the night had me expecting to go through the house turning on all the lights. Just when I thought I was going to be fine, the final scenes from the attic rolled across the screen. It takes a lot to scare me, and I was not disappointed!

It would have been easy for this show to be a rip-off of the movie, but it forged its own path into terror. As the story went on it got deeper, twistier, and scarier. The way the story intertwined with Blatty’s original tale was brilliant

Towards the end of the season, Ben Daniel’s character, Father Marcus, said the most profound line to ever be uttered on television, IMHO. Satan’s allies were torturing him, and all he had to do to make it stop was join them. He refused. The head baddy expressed his disbelief that Father Marcus would rather die for the Church that had excommunicated him than be a part of the evil that would welcome him. To this Marcus replied, “I’m not dying for the bloody Church, I’m dying for Him.”

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There is something terribly appealing about a character who reveals that his principles are deeper than you thought. He walks the talk to the bitter end, a man of integrity who knows where his true devotion lies.

These tales intrigue me, and maybe many of you, because they are scary to be sure, but deeper. Not just shock and jumps. They explore the ancient human question of what faith is and how hard it can be to hang on to that faith. It challenges us to ponder what exactly is it that we have faith in? And why. It begs the question, what is the purpose of suffering? They show us the power of mercy, sacrifice, and service to others. Most importantly, they tell us that we are not powerless against evil. Contact with evil will change us, but we can fight back. There is hope that we can overcome it.

William Peter Blatty passed away on January 12, 2016. I’m glad I got to hear his classic novel read with his intended character inflections and tone. It was fantastic. I let his word usage wash over my brain, I hope something stuck!

bookcoverexorcismJust when I was about to move on from this theme of possession that organically emerged in my life, my library app told me that a new addition to the collection might interest me. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. I loved HorrStor by this same author, so of course, I borrowed it! Not as chilling as the tales above but still good. I was a teen in the early 80’s like the characters, and it brought back some delicious (can you say TCBY) and cringe-worthy memories. It’s a coming of age story with the added challenge of a terrifying chain of demon-inspired chaos. Check it out!

I’m still open to this theme of possession! I’d like to read some Indie authors on the subject. I’m taking suggestions! I just watched Hostage to the Devil, a documentary about real-life exorcist Father Malachi Martin, and so now I think I’ll have to read his book by the same title.

What have I learned from all this? Well, if you happen to see someone you love speaking with an imaginary friend, acting strangely, and speaking in strange voices…you might need a Father Marcus. Or maybe…just maybe…they are a writer!

Until next time Never Turn Off the Lights!

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Scary Christmas Everyone!

My how the time flies. It’s already time for St. Nick to drop down the chimney again. It seems like just yesterday I put away the Halloween decorations (ok, it WAS yesterday, but whose counting?).

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe it’s because I have little people all around to share the holiday with. Their exuberant anticipation is contagious. We have been busy doing all the family traditions that surround this lovely holiday. We baked cookies, we decorated, we visited Santa, we made Christmas crafts, we’ve been watching Christmas movies (the Grinch and Rudolph are favorites), and we’ve been reading Christmas stories. Among the requested repeat reads are, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, The Fourth Wiseman, and various forms of the story of the birth of Jesus. Tonight we will visit a tradition started by my sweet mother, the opening of one gift on Christmas eve. Amazingly, it is always new pajamas!

Most of the popular and common Christmas traditions in the United States were begun in the Victorian era. Sending Christmas cards, caroling, and roasting a turkey for the feast were all brought into the American mainstream in the early 19th century. Sadly, one tradition that has fallen to the wayside is the gathering around the fire on Christmas Eve to tell ghost stories.

In honor of that old time tradition I’m going to tell you a tale based on a ghost story that my Grandma likes to tell us whenever she can. So lower the lights, gather around the fire, and snuggle up.

b5b6e5773f0a623c3997887a68d3036cTomas hadn’t always been bad. He had once followed the church but had long ago abandoned his faith. It wasn’t his fault that he had been born poor. It wasn’t his fault that foolish people left their homes unlocked when they went to Christmas Eve mass. It also wasn’t his fault they left their best silver and other treasures out in the open. They obviously didn’t cherish these items, it was his duty to put the booty to better use.

His haul in the tiny mountain town wasn’t as good as he had hoped. He should have known that with the mine closed there wouldn’t be much available to him. The pack slung over his shoulder was much too light.

He heard that the church would remain unlocked until morning mass for anyone who choose to spend the night in prayer. Churches always contained the best golden trinkets and the people would need to sleep sometime. Tomas had decided to hike through the woods and wait in the darkness behind the tiny stone building. When the coast was clear he would gather what he could and be gone.

The almost full moon was obscured by clouds, making it difficult for him to see but Tomas didn’t mind. It made it difficult for him to be seen, exactly what he wanted. The tall pines and aspens provided even more perfect cover. It was as if nature itself was assisting him.

He settled into a tight growth of pines and sat on a low growing juniper to wait it out. He watched the church,the windows glowing warmly with the candle light within. He knew that the people would return home soon and find their things missing. That would distract them from the church even further. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

A slight rustling behind him startled him. Had he forgotten to cover his tracks in the snow? Maybe they already tracked him here.

He spun around. Nothing but the dark woods. A slight breeze rustling the tree tops and billowing clouds across the face of the moon.

Something heavy snapped branches to his left. He leapt to his feet.

Silhouetted against the faded moonlight was a huge black shape. Protruding from the enormous head were long sharply pointed horns. Tomas recalled tales of the Devil from his youth. Only the Devil would appear to someone bent on such an evil act on the holiest night of the year.

The monstrosity began moving his way. Tree branches splintering in its wake. The Prince of Darkness coming to claim his own.

Tomas felt his chest constrict as the breath was squeezed from his body by fear. The pack jangled noisily to his feet and he collapsed to the cold ground.

468px-Texas_Longhorn_Steer_RockspringsIn the early Christmas light the people found the thief frozen by death and the cold night. They were unsure if he had been trying to steal the prize bull from the Garcia ranch, a foolish effort at best. Señor Garcia didn’t even know the bull was missing until the animal was discovered a few feet from the dead man, entangled in the underbrush. Everyone was able to reclaim their belongings from the thief’s sack and enjoy a Merry Christmas.

 

From my house to yours – Merry Christmas!

p.s. Grandma Rosie, I love you!

How a Drunk and the Devil Shaped Our Most Iconic Halloween Symbol

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I’m taking a break from NaNoWriMo preparations to enjoy the holiday. We slammed some Halloween fun and a birthday celebration into the last couple of days. The weekend festivities ended with the traditional carving of the pumpkins.

You are likely aware that most Halloween traditions have roots in the Celtic holiday of Samhain which marked the end of summer and final harvest time. It was also a period when supernatural forces were particularly active. On this night the door to the spirit world opened and spirits were allowed to freely roam the Earth. To keep evil spirits away, raging bonfires were lit.

In the middle-ages the festival morphed into All Hallows Eve. Eventually the bonfires were toned down to hallowed out gourds and turnip lanterns. When Irish immigrants came to America they found that the native pumpkin was a superior way to create these lanterns. Ta-dah, the jack-o-lantern was born.

You might not believe this looking at my profile picture but my Pop is pure Scotch/Irish with the surname to prove it! There is an Irish folktale that tells a much more interesting story about how jack-o-lanterns came to be.

Stingy-Jack forever doomed to roam the Earth.

Stingy-Jack forever doomed to roam the Earth.

There once was a man named Stingy-Jack. He liked to drink, hang out at the pub, mooch off of everybody for drinks, and to play tricks on them because he fancied himself so much smarter than they. He wasn’t an especially likable fellow. So much so, that one Hallows Eve he found himself face to face with the Devil.

Stingy-Jack was sure he could outsmart the Devil, so he offered his soul in exchange for a drink. The Devil quickly changed himself into a coin to pay for the drink. He didn’t know that Stingy-Jack had already mooched a coin from another patron to pay for the drink. He snatched up the coin and put it in his pocket next to a silver cross that he always carried. Because of the cross, the Devil could not change into his real form and was trapped as a coin. Stingy-Jack refused to free the Devil until he promised not to claim his soul for ten years. The Devil agreed and Stingy-Jack released him.

Fast forward ten years. Stingy-Jack was walking along a darkened country road when the Devil came to collect what was due to him. Again, Stingy-Jack used his tricky ways. He told the Devil he would go but could the Devil please climb the tree and get him an apple first?

For whatever reason, the Devil went up the tree to get the apple and Jack quickly etched a cross on the trunk. The Devil now could not climb down from the tree. Jack made the Devil promise not to collect his soul now or when he eventually died. The Devil was furious but had no choice other than to agree.

Several years later Jack passed-away. He presented himself to the gates of heaven but was told he could not enter because of his deceitful, drunken life. He then presented himself to hell. The Devil remembered the promise he had made and refused him entrance. Instead, he was banished to roam the Earth forever with only a turnip lantern to light his way. This doomed ghostly figure was referred to as Jack of the Lantern and eventually Jack O’Lantern. In Ireland and Scotland people began placing their own version of Jack’s lantern in windows and doorways to keep evil spirits at bay.

As you carve your own jack-o-lanterns keep poor Stingy-Jack in mind. I think he actually got it easy compared to an eternity in hell!

My Family's Creations this Halloween.

My Family’s Creations this Halloween.

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!