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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Possession Movies with Real Life Beginnings

There is a new horror film slated for release tomorrow, Devil’s Due. You may not have heard of the movie but maybe you heard about or have seen the viral marketing for this movie.

Funny, yet disturbing.

This movie is based on fictional characters but there are several well known possession movies that are based on allegedly true stories. Probably the best known of these is The Exorcist, based on the story of Roland Doe (not his real name), a 13-year-old boy who in 1949 underwent a month long exorcism ritual conducted by two Jesuit priests, Fathers William Bowdern and Walter Halloran. In the movie version it is a young girl who is overtaken by an evil entity after playing with a Ouija Board. Roland’s ordeal also began with a Ouija board. Several manifestations were inflicted on the boy, writing would spontaneously appear on Roland’s skin, he spoke in a guttural voice, he had an aversion to sacred objects, he was vulgar with the priests and even tried to urinate on them. Finally, according to Tom Leonard of the Daily Mail, the boy shouted out “Satan, I am St. Michael! I command you to leave this body now!” He went limp and announced “He is gone!” He acted normally and has never had a relapse since that moment, prompting some to say the boy was faking the whole thing.

A possession movie I found most interesting was the 2012 release The Possession. Usually it seems the Catholics have the corner market on exorcisms but this story has a Jewish slant. The movie is loosely based on the book The Dibbuk Box by Jason Haxton. In the movie a young girl buys the Dibbuk box at a yard sale and becomes possessed by the evil spirit from Jewish folklore that was trapped inside when she opens the box. In real life the box was first purchased at an Estate sale and later on eBay, finally coming to Jason Haxton. The box has a history of strange and tragic occurrences happening to those in possession or vicinity of the box. Haxton still owns the box and says it is in a safe place, whatever that means. Apparently some strange things happened on the set of The Possession even though the crew and cast turned down Haxton’s offer to give them the actual Dibbuk box. Several times lights inexplicably exploded and phantom gusts of wind would billow on the set. When shooting wrapped up all the props, including the movie version of the Dibbuk box, were put into storage. A short time later the storage unit burned to the ground with no explanation.

Demonic possession is discussed in the Bible numerous times and many religions hold the belief that spirits can possess the living. Dr. William B. Bradshaw, Ph.D, a demonologist, wrote Sinister Among Us as a layman’s primer into demonology. Dr. Bradshaw holds his Ph.D. in demonology has spent decades studying the subject. While he concedes that mental disease, physical maladies, and human choice are usually at the root of these cases he believes that there is a struggle between good and evil. As he points out in his book, possession is not always head-spinning, levitating, pea soup shooting obvious and can strike in the most unlikely place. Which makes the prospect even more unsettling.

Sinister Among Us by William B. Bradshaw

Sinister Among Us by William B. Bradshaw

Unfortunately, my usual advice of never turn off the lights probably won’t help in this situation. Unless you are an unbeliever, then you should be fine, right?