Do you like scary stories? I grew up on them. A steady diet of scary stories, scary books and scary movies from a young age led to my adulthood involvement in even scarier things.

“Ghost hunting” and “paranormal investigations” at night seemed like harmless distractions from long days of being trapped in an office. The nightly distractions also satisfied my craving for anything and everything frightening. Of course, while nothing turned out to be what it seemed, the truth was far more terrifying than anything I originally imagined. I’ve blogged about the reality of the “paranormal” before so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Marty and I recently watched a documentary on exorcism, which was put together by the guy who directed the iconic movie, The Exorcist. It featured a 90 year old exorcist from Rome. This case that was featured was that of a woman named Cristina who had been possessed for quite a few years and was currently undergoing her eighth or ninth exorcism with the same priest.

First of all – do you believe in demonic possession? What IS a demon, and why would it want to possess you, or anyone else for that matter? To be clear, I do believe in demonic possession. Since we’re talking about demons, I think I should just clarify that we are talking about spiritual things, because demons are part of the whole “God thing” that I drive a lot of people crazy talking about. It’s a God thing. Demons were created by God, but when He created them they were angels. Then Lucifer did his thing, got kicked out of Heaven and took a full third of the angels with him. They’re fallen angels with a vendetta against God, and what better way to get back at God than to defile His children?

If you go back to the book of Job you’ll see a clear picture of what’s often referred to as The Great Controversy. Satan comes before God and other angels and struts his stuff – he makes it clear that he’s been walking about on the Earth, as if he owns the place. God asks him if he’s considered His servant, Job, who is an upright and blameless man – God had been blessing Job with a big family and wealth and possessions because Job was a good and faithful servant. Satan contended that of course Job loved the Lord because he’d been making out like a bandit! He said that if God took away all the goodies, Job would curse him to his face! So, God let Satan take everything from Job and still Job remained faithful to God. Do you think Satan has changed his tactics with us in the modern age?

Weren’t things perfect in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve had everything they could ever wish for. The only rule they had was, “Don’t eat that.” And along comes Satan. Does he force Eve to eat the fruit? No, of course not. Satan could not and still cannot force anyone to do anything. All he can do is plant a seed in someone’s mind. All he did was plant the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind. He simply asked, “Did God really say…?”

He does the same thing now. He plants seeds of doubt, he causes distraction and that’s all it takes for him to win. If we take our eyes off God, if we start doubting His Word then we’re in the wrong camp. The Bible says that the dead are asleep until the time of resurrection and judgement. The devil says they’re floating around here as ghosts or they’re up in Heaven looking down on us and visiting with us, or stuck in some limbo because they don’t know they’re dead. Do we believe the Word of God? Or do we believe Satan? How does he make us doubt the Word? He deceives us with his mighty army out there impersonating our loved ones – making appearances that we can see with our own eyes and shouldn’t we believe what we see with our own eyes?

Where are these demons, anyway? Are they lurking in the attics of old houses? Wandering through graveyards? Or are they sitting on the couch beside you… There’s a whole realm of reality we can’t see. There are angels around us all the time and we can’t see them. Sure, once in a while we get a glimmer or a glimpse or a hint of what’s going on but we can’t see them. And just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I know many church-going people who will be offended by the suggestion that they could have a demon sitting four feet away from them in their home, watching them. But here’s the reality of it – they’re around all the time, whether we’re Christian or not. This is how they pull off their great impersonations of deceased loved ones. They know our secret habits, our secret addictions. They know what temptations are our downfalls.

So, who gets possessed? The victims we see in the movies are usually people who play with Ouija boards or dance on graves. In reality it could be just about anyone. The doors we open to the demonic are a lot more subtle. We don’t have to scream the invitation when only a whisper will do. Open doors and invitations can include alcohol or drug abuse, porn, adultery… anything that turns our backs on God. You can go sit in a church pew every week and still wind up under demonic control.

So, is vomiting pea soup a sure way to tell that your friend or neighbor is possessed? Or is it just a way for them to say they don’t like your cooking? There’s an old saying about Satan’s greatest trick being convincing the world he doesn’t exist. It’s true. Subtle is his middle name. Think it’s any coincidence that possession and mental illness are often mistaken for one another? The instances of possession we see in the Bible are some pretty extreme cases – the Bible is a book that gets 6,000 years worth of history into one volume, so we don’t know the full stories of any of the demoniacs Jesus encountered. We only got the few minutes at the end of their stories where Jesus cast the demons out and the person was restored to their right minds. However, I’m sure their whole stories were a lot more complex than we see in the brief glimpse we see.

So, you wake up one morning speaking Latin and levitating? Not so much. Generally speaking a person who winds up being possessed starts out by being demonically harassed first. And there are a lot more people out there being demonically harassed than you might believe. Harassment is just exactly what it sounds like – it’s the whispers, the promptings, the thoughts that wear you down slowly and methodically. Aren’t we all harassed during the most intense periods of our lives? The times when things are going so well, and then – BAM! Out of the blue – or so it seems – things just take a nosedive. Or when things are at their worst and we can’t seem to pull ourselves back up again. The nagging thoughts that we’ll never be good enough, that we’re alone in the world, that it’s too late to change direction… Those thoughts can wear a person down to the point of suicide, can’t they?

And what about chronic illnesses that seem to come out of nowhere? Personally, I know a lot of people who dabbled in the occult and now they’re sick all the time. Heart disease, kidney disease, liver failure, fybro, the list goes on and on. Can a demon effect your health? Absolutely. When Satan destroyed Job’s family and possessions and he still remained faithful, he took another stab at him – and he afflicted the man with boils all over his body. Our health can be adversely affected by satanic influences. So can our finances. Satan can mess with every aspect of our lives – but remember, he cannot force us to do anything.

So, when he’s worn a person down to a low enough point, taking away any spiritual strength they have… what happens next? What happens when the person is possessed? Are there symptoms that can be diagnosed like some kind of illness?

Matthew 12: 43-46

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

I have a friend named Mary. We’ve known each other for quite a few years now. We met when I had just moved into my house in East Haven, CT. I joined a “paranormal investigation team”. Yeah, I know, it sounds ridiculous to me, too now. But at the time I was very excited about ghosthunting and making friends. It was a social thing to do in a new place and took my level of scare-seeking to the next level. Mary was the group’s “medium”. Since she was a small child she’d been seeing and communicating with spirits of what she was convinced were spirits of deceased humans. When she was little her best friend was the ghost of a little girl who had drown in her neighborhood years earlier. 

Mary grew up speaking with these spirits as they presented themselves to her. She’d get details on how they lived, how they died, and passed messages from them along to their family members. She’d been raised Catholic and knew what the Bible said about communicating with the dead (the Bible explicitly says NOT to do it) but we convinced ourselves – with a little help from Satan – that hers must be a gift right from God, so that she could bring comfort to the living family and friends who were left behind. 

She never had to seek out these spirits – go into a trance or use a Ouija board or anything. They came to her. Everywhere. At home, at work, in the car, in restaurants. We were once appearing on a CT talk show and the father of the skeptical show host came to her before the taping of the show. The skeptic was not so skeptical after hearing messages from her own departed father. Or…the spirit who came in the guise of her father, anyway. 

One night, we were out on an investigation in someone’s home. Some of us were in the basement and some of us were in other parts of the house. Mary was in the basement with me, talking with the homeowner’s dead father. We got an alert on one of our radios from another group member who was in the attic using dowsing rods who was also apparently talking with the same dead father. How many places can one dead guy be at the same time?

So, Mary and I continued with our nitwittery out there for quite a long time – creeping through graveyards at night with our cameras and tape recorders, spending nights sitting in homes where people were being “haunted”, etc. Gradually we started to note that we were only getting cases where it turned out to be something extremely “negative”. Violent, even. Cases where people in their homes where pushed, scratched, bitten… We dealt with different churches, shamans, exorcists, etc. 

Mary lost her long-term, good job. Due to complications with her citizenship paperwork  which seemed to vanish, (she was born in Italy, to American citizens) she was unable to get another job because she couldn’t prove citizenship. Her previously solid marriage went into the toilet. She had two children to care for and no income. Her ex wouldn’t pay child support, she had to move in with her elderly aunt who she didn’t exactly get along with, and her health was declining. She had trouble with her liver and was suffering from a lot of other medical issues that came out of the blue. Her personal life was a disaster. Her bum-magnet turned on full-force and she had a series of relationships that had us all scratching our heads. 

Mary had always kept a pretty tidy house. But those days were gone, too. The state of the house she was living in declined as rapidly as her health. She talked about dark shadows and spirits following her when she went outside, and spirits inside the house as well. To this day I’m not sure how many of those spirits were there before she moved in and how many more she brought with her. I had one harrowing little experience late one night in the home as well, so I know they weren’t figments of her imagination by any stretch, but I am convinced that she’d been picking up demons like spiritual dust bunnies her whole life. 

Mary’s possession wasn’t an overnight thing. There was no one specific trigger event. You and I measure time in years, with an eye on the finite nature of our mortal lives. Thirty or forty years might seem like a very, very long time to us, but to a demon? To a demonic entity it’s the blink of an eye. They have nowhere else they need to be. They can harass a person for decades and it’s not really a big deal to them. Mary was slowly but surely being worn down and ground down to nothing. 

The changes in her were slow ones. And honestly we chalked some of them up to bad luck and stress. She would drop in and out of my life – she’d just suddenly stop talking to me for no apparent reason for months at a time. When she lost her job she stopped talking to me, wouldn’t return my calls, wouldn’t return my texts. She had just gotten a new boyfriend and they quickly got engaged and I found out about that on Facebook. She lashed out at one point and said she didn’t need me anymore because she had God and was happy. I didn’t know what she was talking about. But a few months later it was like none of it ever happened. I got married that year. She didn’t attend the wedding, although she’d been invited. She said something about her and her boyfriend having the kids that weekend, or something. I adored her kids, and even liked her boyfriend’s girls. They would have been welcome to come, too –  it’s not like it was some huge, formal event. We got married in our back yard and the “reception” was a cookout. 

I remember one day after church services my husband and I went grocery shopping. I knew that food was probably getting pretty scarce at Mary’s house, so we grabbed a few extra bags of food and drove to her house. Her boyfriend met us out in the driveway. He went inside to get Mary and appeared a few minutes later, alone. He said she wouldn’t come downstairs. We chatted with him for a few minutes, and shared our concerns with him. I glanced over at the house and there she was…standing in the doorway…glaring at me. Glaring. I could practically feel the daggers coming out of her eyes. 

My husband, Marty and I had started going to church pretty regularly. We’d been reading the Bible and studying together. We found a church we both liked a lot and we were really trying to change our lives. We asked Mary to come with us. A few times she accepted the invitation and came. More often than not she canceled on us because of conflicts with custody or illness. When we were together she was dark and morose, her conversations scattered and focus non-existent. She did and said some of the most out of character things. Still, even with my eyes opened more than most to things like possession I didn’t even seriously consider that that was what was going on with my friend until it was far too late. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, sure! But at the time…not so much. And this is part of Satan’s game; he deceives and confuses. He causes doubts to arise and paints other faces on his treachery. 

In 2009 Marty and I were introduced to a Judeo-Christian minister who had performed many exorcisms. We, in turn introduced him to Mary along the way. It was this minister who was called in to perform the second exorcism. The first exorcism was performed (unknown to me for quite a while after the fact) by a person of zero faith who had run one of the paranormal groups we’d been members of over the years. A young man with no faith at all was called in to perform an exorcism – and he used the Catholic exorcism ritual. I don’t even know where to start on what’s wrong with that whole scenario – it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Apparently he also videotaped it for posterity, so I’m sure he was in full-blown actor-mode at the time. I can’t even properly express how dangerous what he did was.

Mary recently finished a book of her own, chronicling her life and ordeals. It’s called The Place of Shadows and I highly recommend it – and not just because I’m in it. 

To be more clear, when speaking of possession in general and my friend Mary in particular – there can be periods, long periods even, when the person who’s possessed might seem completely normal. This is all part of Satan’s ruse, his game to make you doubt what’s going on. Such is the case that I mentioned in part one of this series of blogs – the case in Rome with Cristina. She has periods of time where she’s snarling like some kind of beast and cursing and snapping, and then minutes later she’s laughing and smiling and carrying on a normal conversation with the people around her, totally unaware of her behavior just before.

Even to this day Mary doesn’t remember many of the incidents I’m writing about.

Here’s a point they don’t often dwell on in the movies – possession can only occur through invitation. The invitation doesn’t have to be engraved, or explicit. The invitation can be quite accidental, through ignorance as opposed to purpose. If there is a door open, the demonic can come through it. As I mentioned earlier, alcoholism, drug addiction, porn, any open sin can be an invitation.

I lived in the city of Gastonia, NC for a year. We didn’t have a lot of money so we wound up renting a house in what turned out to be the ghetto. One of our neighbors was a woman named Bobbi Jo. She was a few years younger than me, but looked older – she’d led a pretty hard life. She was a grandmother already at a very young age. She’d been abused in every way possible from childhood through adulthood. She was living with a guy named Jay who was an alcoholic. Jay was generally drunk by 7:30 in the morning. Bobbi wasn’t much of a drinker but she liked her pills and her weed. More than that, she liked that “legal weed” stuff that they sold at the smoke shop. I had a soft spot in my heart for her, because she just didn’t know how valuable she was in God’s eyes. She didn’t know how to do anything other than what she was doing. She had very little hope in her. She used to come over for coffee in the mornings sometimes, and occasionally I’d take her to the grocery store, when their truck wasn’t running or had been impounded. Neither she nor Jay had a valid license. One morning I took her to the store, and she seemed fine. She went to put her groceries away, and then came over for a cup of coffee. She was sitting on the couch in my living room, talking, when she just slumped over. She started to contort into an unnatural position, her eyes rolled back in her head and she started making this bizarre noise; something between a laugh and a growl. Now, every home that my husband and I have had together we’ve dedicated to God. We’ve invited the Holy Spirit into our homes and it was an absolute affront to have whatever that was on my couch in my home. I remember standing there, rebuking that thing and watching as she crawled off the couch, still growling and went out the front door. She fell off the porch and crawled/lurched back across the street. When I saw her again two days later she had no memory of coming back over to my house that morning.

Was it a demon in my living room, or was it a bad reaction to some drug she’d taken? I know in my heart that it was something demonic. But I can’t prove it. And there’s Satan’s great game again.

When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world he gave them instructions like, “Heal the sick, cast out demons…” So, can anyone cast out a demon? The Catholic Church says no. The Catholic Church says that the only thing a demon fears is a Catholic priest. I don’t see anything like that written in the Bible at all. What I see in the Bible is that the only thing demons fear is God, the authority of Jesus. A demon has zero fear of a human being, even if they’re wearing a collar. Humans are flawed and sinful at their very best. Jesus led a sinless life. It’s His authority a believer invokes in order to cast out an unclean spirit. Human beings have no authority at all.

Like the case of Cristina in Rome, sometimes we hear about exorcisms dragging on for years, being performed over and over again without success. Why? Why can a priest read that Rituale Romanum over and over again and have the demon remain right where it is?

Pride is a good starting place. Is the exorcist’s faith in Jesus, or is their faith in the ritual series of prayer and chants? Is their faith in their costume and props? Holy water? Where does holy water appear in the Bible? If the person casting that demon out isn’t in a state of humility, relying completely on the authority of Jesus, the result is disaster for all involved. If there is unconfessed sin in the person’s life, the demon will use that against them. You can’t be full of the Holy Spirit AND self all at the same time. There was a pair of “ghosthunters” in my home state who also claimed to be demonologists. The husband claimed proudly that demons were afraid of him.  He claimed that they trembled when they heard he was on his way. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus suggested that some spirits could only be cast out after prayer and fasting. I think this has more to do with the person attempting to cast them out than it does the strength of the demon itself. Prayer and fasting can bring us to a place of humility, total dependence upon the Lord. A place where we empty ourselves of self and can be filled with the Holy Spirit.

I hear “churchy” people sometimes talking about helping others or doing good deeds (which we’re really not supposed to go around talking about anyway) and telling anyone who will listen, “Oh, it’s not me, it’s the Lord,” and you can hear the pride in their voices despite their words. It’s like saying, “Hey, I have humility, so now I have everything!” There are “deliverance ministries” out there by the thousands now, ever since this paranormal thing got to be so big. They have their own little rituals and routines that they perform and they bring attention to themselves while claiming to be doing it for the glory of God. You can’t have it both ways; it’s either God’s glory, or it’s your own. I know that when we first got into the whole paranormal world nonsense, it was a form of thrill-seeking, and that’s a dangerous position to be in. Most people don’t belong anywhere near the “deliverance” business. The best advice I can give anyone is just to stay away from the whole ball of wax entirely. Do not even step on that ground.

Matthew 12: 43-46

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Let’s say you have a house guest. Let’s say it’s someone you meet who doesn’t have a place to live and you let them come stay in your guest room for a couple of weeks; just until they get on their feet. We’ve all done that, right? And we all know what happens – the guest gets too comfortable there, makes a mess, meddles in your life, screws up your marriage, steals from you and eventually you get to the point where you have to throw them out. Maybe you tell them that you need the room for someone else and they need to leave, just to avoid conflict. 

And they leave.

And you breathe a sigh of relief. You clean up the room and close the door and go on with your life. 

Then a couple of weeks later, when they’ve worn out their welcome somewhere else, they show up at your house and they peek into that guest room and they see that there’s no one in there! And they drop their bags back in the room and maybe even invite a few of their friends over – and now there’s a REAL mess!

Demonic possession is a lot like that. Someone who is possessed can undergo an exorcism, and the demon can be cast out and the person can be free of that demon for a while and go about their life as normal… because that “guest room” within them is now empty. But if no one else comes to live in that “guest room” right away, the demon is going to come back, see that the room is unoccupied, move back in and bring his friends with him! This is why some exorcisms have to be done over, and over, and over again. This is why some of them drag on for years with periods of seeming normalcy. 

So, let’s get back to the guest room. Let’s say the evicted “friend” comes back and looks into the guest room and sees that there’s someone else living in there now, someone he can’t bully or push around. There would be no room for the interloper and he’d leave, right? Well, who can take up residence in our spiritual guest room who’s powerful enough to deter a demonic entity from coming back in? How about the Holy Spirit? Certainly, no demon is a match for Him.

If a person is possessed and has an exorcism done, the “after care” is more important than anything else. The Holy Spirit needs to be invited into their heart immediately and their life needs to be surrendered to Christ. If they have that unclean spirit cast out and don’t make changes in their life, it will be back, and it will be worse. If there are any doors left open for that spirit, it will not hesitate to come back in because the environment is still perfect for it. Someone who has gone through an exorcism has to create a hostile environment for anything demonic or it will be back. 

Bible study – surrender to God – baptism – it’s all like spiritual chemo after cancer surgery. 

Let’s go back and visit with my friend Mary’s case for a moment. The first exorcism she had was a spiritual joke for a lot of reasons. Anyone can read words, without faith they mean nothing. The second exorcism was performed by a man of tremendous faith, very strong in his walk with God and some changes were made in her life after the exorcism. However, she still had a lot of pagan articles in her home like dreamcatchers and shaman sticks and crystals, so there were still doors open and she was still being demonically harassed and oppressed for a long time to come. The harassment, oppression and physical illnesses continued for the rest of her life.

Mary passed this summer, just five days after her daughter’s wedding. Her spirit was willing but her body was done. The health issues that began about the time of the possession continued and worsened until she was in multiple system failure. She remained strong in her faith and was at peace when she left this life. The demons, however, lingered after her passing. I drove from Shelby to Boone the day she died, to be with her kids and to see to some of the arrangements that needed to be made. We stayed up talking until three in the morning and when I turned in it was to Mary’s bedroom because that was the only place available to sleep. I closed the door, lay down in the bed and reached to turn out the lights. That’s when I felt them starting to encroach. They’d been with Mary her whole life and now they were looking for someone else to latch onto. I was exhausted. It was all I could do to pray to God to send the Holy Spirit to be with me and let His light drive back the darkness. I was giving them no foothold. After the prayer I turned out the light and went to sleep. I didn’t have any fear of what was in the room with me because God was there. When we fear, we admit that we don’t believe God is stronger than the demons. That lapse in faith is what gives them the opening.

to be continued…

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3 thoughts on “Possession

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