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!

Push Back the Darkness

It’s been a heavy few days here in Colorado. On Friday the 13th , eighteen-year-old Karl Pierson entered Arapahoe High School in suburban Denver, openly carrying a shotgun, looking for a specific teacher. He shot senior Claire Davis who succumbed to her grave injuries Saturday afternoon. Pierson shot himself when he learned school resource officers were closing in. More causalities in another senseless violent attack in a place that should be safe. It seems like we are experiencing a nation-wide trend of mass violence.

It’s easy to become afraid or cynical.  To harden our hearts and circle the wagons, so to speak. But you can’t hide from evil. That’s right, mass killings by suicidal killers can only be described as evil.

I’ve faced evil, face-to-face, in hand-to-hand combat. Not a suicidal killer but evil just the same. I came out on the other side a much different person than when I went in. It almost did me in, literally.

What I learned from my experience is that the best way to overcome evil, is with good. Revenge and fear only lead to victory for the darkness.

Take for instance the situation in Pennsylvania, in 2006 when a gunman stormed an Amish school room and killed four school-girls and wounded seven more before killing himself. The families of the girls went to the killer’s mother’s house to comfort her. They even attended his funeral. Through their super-human act of forgiveness a whole community was able to move forward.

Goodness doesn’t have to be on such a monumental scale. Every day people are pushing back the darkness. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary prompted a movement “26 Acts of Kindness”, one for each victim. Simple acts, like taping money to the soda machine with a note of encouragement. Maybe you’ve been the recipient of someone paying for your coffee in the drive-thru.  I’ve heard about an anonymous person who is paying off peoples’ Christmas layaway bills. I know of a mom who carts her kids to various nursing homes to visit and deliver handmade cards at this time of the year. A friend of ours had his lunch paid for by some other diners in a restaurant. This simple kindness almost brought this burly man to tears. I’ve seen kids rally around a new classmate, making sure he didn’t eat lunch alone and had someone to play with at recess. All wonderful examples of pushing back the darkness.

An underlying theme in most of my writing is being confronted with evil and how do we respond. My characters don’t always take the high road or have a successful response, just like in real life. But when we make a conscious choice to do good we never know how far the ripples of that act will reach. Maybe all the way to someone plagued by thoughts of doing harm, maybe it will be an opening for good rather than evil.

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