Possession, is not just my favorite Sarah McLachlan song, but also a time-honored tradition of mischievous and malevolent entities. For the contemporary, Anglo-American, the concept of possession usually conjures images of Demons. Numerous pop culture references persist. Movies like The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose are two remarkably vivid depictions of the Catholic version of possession. The graphic novel Hellblazer and its main character John Constantine do a decent job of highlighting some of the diversity in possession lore. In folklore, there are numerous types of beings that could be perpetrators of possession. For Muslims and people whose ancestry comes from the fertile crescent regions, a Djinn would be suspected of possessing someone. For those with unbroken Celtic traditions, a monstrous faerie does the possessing. As one can imagine, there is as much variety in methods of removing malevolent entities as there are types of beings to be removed.
As a paranormal investigator, I am often called upon to deal with troublesome spirits in a person’s home. Most of the time these calls have mundane explanations. Occasionally there is enough evidence of a haunting to entice us to come out and document the event. Even more rare are those situations where a family or individual is plagued by genuinely powerful and frightening activity. I would like to share a few example situations where we were able to help the people involved, deal with their malicious presences.
Naming an energetic parasite
A woman in Louisville Colorado believed that she had a malevolent entity attached to her. Since I do not have express permission to use her name, for the sake of this report I will refer to her as Louisville, as an homage to my favorite paranormal preparedness documentary, Zombieland. Louisville described the being attacking her as a dark humanoid, with wings and horns. She had also experienced being clawed by an unseen force and objects thrown and broken around her in addition to loud sounds and banging. She had been plagued by nightmares and had difficulty resting. When she was able to sleep, she woke up “feeling drained.” She did have trauma in her history and had recently begun therapy, but she was understandably reluctant to share her paranormal experiences with the therapist. She received a series of Tarot card readings from a close personal friend which led her to contact us.
Louisville considered herself to be a Nondenominational Christian, and she believed that one must go through a connection to Jesus Christ to account for sins, not through a priest or a minister. Whenever she did “Soul Searching”, that is, any time she was actively involved in self-improvement work, she heard banging and “rolling” like a billiard ball rolling on the ground. The creature Louisville was allegedly plagued by attempted to scratch her and she could feel it attempting to hurt her. Apparently, the creature could not hurt her when she wore a cross for protection. Louisville claimed to have psychic abilities that were blocked by the entity’s presence. She reported that it (the entity) had been getting angrier and angrier due to the attempts to get better.
Through our interview, I learned that Louisville had gone to a non-denominational minister in 2005 in Louisiana. The minister got the background story, and read verses out of the bible with her. Lights started flickering, and the pastor heard screaming as he attempted to get the name of the entity. He was not able to get the name but identified the being as ancient, and recommended she contact a Hoodoo practitioner because it was beyond his expertise. Louisville found a Hoodoo Priestess who was apparently the biggest in New Orleans, although she could not remember her name. Madam Nola as we shall call her, in keeping with the Zombieland naming system, tried to lift the entity in her way but could not. She unsuccessfully attempted to get it to speak its name. Madam Nola according to Louisville thought it was ancient because it was so strange and so strong. She believed it to be a combination of demonic voodoo. Madam Nola accepted no gifts or payment because she was not able to help. A Catholic priest in Houston in 2006, did an evaluation of Louisville and her situation and submitted an exorcism request from the church authorities. According to Louisville, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston determined that there was not sufficient evidence for possession, but identified the case as a Demonic Oppression.
Possession vs Oppression
According to Devon Rose with Catholic answers, and Father Mike Driskoll there is a wide gradient encompassing all manner of demonic attacks. Between temptation and possession are the lesser-known mid-level influences referred to as obsession and oppression. Basically, since Louisville was not being fully controlled by the entity, but causing her significant problems in her life her case fit into the oppression category.
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines the Exorcism as “(1) the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice; (2) the means employed for this purpose, especially the solemn and authoritative adjuration of the demon, in the name of God, or any of the higher power in which he is subject.”
The Archdiocese sent a priest trained in exorcism to Louisville’s home. The Exorcist attempted to call out the entity’s name with a cross and exorcism bible. The Exorcist was hit and scratched on his cross-hand. Crosses turned upside down and candles went out. He commanded the being to give its name and was unsuccessful. He recommended that Louisville become more spiritual and strengthen her relationship with God. “Hopefully it will work itself out,” Louisville told the Exorcist about the Hoodoo Priestess and he did not seem to think much of it. In 2006, Louisville called a Lutheran minister in Houston. She met the pastor at the church with a female assistant. About twenty minutes into the conversation, the assistant began demanding the name of the entity, while Louisville and the pastor were talking. The assistant turned white as a ghost and told the pastor something. The pastor stopped the conversation and told Louisville to leave. She could not get a hold of the church at all after that.
None of the three clergymen or the Hoodoo Priestess were able to identify the entity, or subsequently expel it. Although I was not able to independently corroborate any part of this story, I found it compelling. I would have loved to connect with the Archdiocese of Galveston -Houston. Unfortunately, exorcism records are not typically shared with the public and usually require permission from the Vatican. All that said, based on the integrity that the Hoodoo Priestess demonstrated, by not taking payment, and the thorough evaluation allegedly conducted by the Archdiocese of Houston, I believed that Louisville was telling the truth about her experience. I did sense that these people she reached to for help only fueled her assumptions of a demonic presence. If it was legitimately a malevolent being then calling it a powerful, ancient demon, would only serve to fuel the being’s ego.
Louisville was open and honest about her mental and physical health. She was actively seeking help in the right places and genuinely wanted to get better. Louisville also appears to be legitimately plagued by a malevolent being, whether it is a monster of the Id (an inner demon of sorts) or an energetic parasite. Based on the previously mentioned facts and that her attempts for healing and self-betterment caused the activity of the being to increase; it appeared that there was a strong energetic connection between Louisville and the entity. Her history and background opened the door of possibility to any number of occult rituals being imposed upon her, or simply inviting the attachment of a strong energetic parasite. One who feeds off pain, fear, and suffering. If Louisville was moving forward with a healthy, positive attitude, then an energetic parasite would be robbed of its food source and lash out in anger. An old, parasitic entity may also not have a name with which to be summoned or expelled. After our conversation, Louisville asked me what she could do to keep herself safe. I recommended looking at the items that she views and knows to be protective. She wears a cross and feels that it helps.
She wanted to get sage to smudge her house but I suggested she use cedar instead and she was open to it. If this being is an energetic parasite then starving it off may be effective. Deny it of its food source, which appears to be fear, pain, and anger. Replace these energies with more healthy and positive ones. Seek out churches and sacred spaces. Reiki, acupuncture, aura cleansing, meditation, anything that deals with energy work or altering the flow of energy. Activities that are conducive to spiritual growth and healing. Louisville noted that she believed one must go through Jesus to account for one’s sins, not a church or clergy. Following this logic, it stands to reason that the clergy could not help her and that the key to her wellbeing lies internally. She had already begun to take steps to work towards positive growth and perhaps strengthening her connection with her spiritual guides would be a powerful tool.
After our discussion, Louisville reported that using cedar-wood oil in the house caused a reaction. When anointing the upstairs bedroom, where she and her husband slept, she heard loud banging and a sound of an object being rolled on the ground. She saw the being at the foot of her bed, and she slept in the morning after. It is not typical for her to sleep in. We consulted for a few weeks, and my recommendations seemed to work. As is often the case, I rarely get a follow-up but at least this one seemed to have a happy all-be-it-neutral ending.
This case led me to research the different forms of exorcism. I was surprised to learn about the wide variance in approach existent within different denominations of Christianity. I was also surprised to learn that according to various church officials, the need for exorcisms is on the rise. The Catholic church has been encouraging priests to become trained as exorcists, and protestant communities are sponsoring classes for parishioners to become certified in exorcisms. The International School of Exorcism in Scottsdale Arizona offers a comprehensive course for a total of $500.
In my research surrounding Hoodoo and Voodoo approaches to possession, I learned that it is quite common to invoke various spirits for healing purposes. If someone has an unwanted spirit attached to them, it is likely due to someone invoking a malicious spirit to attack them as a curse. According to Understanding Voodoo Possession by Sally Painter, a Voodoo practitioner uses a combination of Catholic prayers and adapted West African Vodun practices in a tradition unique to Haiti, and the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions. As with most magical traditions, there is a light and a dark side to this practice. Unfortunately, Louisville’s story now seemed tainted with a bit of a stereotyped image of Hoodoo as the light side with Voodoo being the dark. Granted there are numerous variations and local practices, with vernacular representations, and I’m sure that Louisville was simply operating through the lens of her own understanding. Sally Painter notes that in order to lift a curse:
- If you know that a specific personal object of yours has been taken to evoke a spell, you will be advised to withdraw your spiritual attachment or connection to it.
- You may be given a protection talisman to keep on your person as well as a potion for casting a spell.
- Voodoo priests and priestesses know the art of uncrossing a spell and much of that knowledge is either secret or resides in the spirit world.
In Louisville’s case, she reiterated the Christian concept of needing to know the name of the entity in order to remove it. It seems like the information above may have given the “Hoodoo Priestess” some more tools to work with, but I suspect she had been cursing herself through hyper-focus on naming it anyway.
I was also interested to learn how similar Voodoo is, in some ways to another folk tradition that I am familiar with. As Voodoo is an amalgam of Catholicism, and Indigenous healing practices, so too is Curanderismo. A holistic system of Latin American folk medicine Curanderismo blends religious beliefs, faith, and prayer with the use of herbs, massage, and other traditional methods of healing. These practices address the physical, spiritual, psychological, and social needs of the people who use them.
Most families of Latin descent have a basic awareness of Curanderismo elements, and often a matriarch has some deeper knowledge intended to be used for the care of their family. Additionally, there are specialists, with advanced knowledge of herbal medicines, midwifery, protections against, and lifting curses, and coping with grief.
Curanderizmo blends elements of medieval Spain with local Indigenous practices analogous to the people who practice it, and it has become an empowering vehicle for decolonization among Chicanx communities. My great grandmother taught me defense against Brujos (evil witches) and basic healing herbs. Some of these teachings include being mindful of ones hair and nail clippings as a Brujo can use these against you. Anything with your DNA (blood, sweat, and tears) can be used for malicious purposes. I have learned more advanced methods from various elders and Curanderos in the community. These methods have proved invaluable as a paranormal investigator as demonstrated in the next case.
Devil in the Doorway
In December of 2019, My Cousin Rhiannon contacted me to report that her husband had been acting strangely and that they were seeing orbs and shadows around the apartment. She said that things started getting weird soon after they got married on October 31st. There had been little to no strange activity before the marriage and they had been living in the same apartment for some time. The activity grew steadily worse over the winter months and culminated with a dramatic photo taken by a baby monitor camera of what appeared to be a goat-heeled humanoid figure, standing in the doorway of the bedroom on new years eve. Rhiannon’s husband also had bouts or “fits” of god-cursing rants, that he claimed to have no memory of. He also experienced anomalous cuts and scratches appearing on his arms, legs, and torso. Rhiannon instinctively put her husband in the bathtub with holy water and used sage to cleanse the space. These actions only seemed to temporarily placate the activity and she reached out to me for help.
With any suspected hauntings, or possessions, It is usually assumed that a mundane explanation will solve the issue. The ever-controversial explanation of sleep paralysis is certainly a possibility. I was careful to thoroughly evaluate the situation for evidence of domestic violence or abuse, as well as violent mental health concerns. It was clear however that this was a kind and gentle man, who never raised a hand towards my cousen or the children. It is also important to note that he was in most respects the victim, plagued by cuts and scratches. The photos and videos, combined with witness testimony provided as evidence indicated that there may be legitimately anomalous activity present.
A different sort of exorcism
I recognized that this case was more than just a poltergeist or a troublesome spirit. I drew from the knowledge passed down from my great grandmother, and what I have been taught by other elders. I commended my cousin’s instinct and we worked together to perform a Limpia on her husband. In Spanish, limpia literally means clean. The intention of the ritual is obvious, and like its Voodoo counterpart, it works to sever ties to anyone who may be cursing the subject and calls in benevolent spirits including ancestors to assist, heal and protect.
My cousin reported that the activity, particularly the concerning, malevolent activity subsided after the Limpia. There appears to be a correlation between the appearance of apparitions and the high degree of activity that manifested between the couple’s marriage on Halloween and the Limpia I performed on the house and the husband. I suspect that some sort of energetic parasite became aroused and attached itself to the husband during the Halloween wedding. This entity continued to grow and feed on negative energy, circulating around stressful lifestyle factors with the family. The culmination of these energies led to the manifestation of orbs, rods, black smoke, cuts and scratches, speaking in tongues, and a goat-heeled figure in the doorway. Perhaps, Halloween may not be the best time to get married, after all. This case also reinforces the effectiveness of the Limpia, and the power of a family connection to traditional practice.
Whether or not people were genuinely becoming more susceptible to demonic possession before the pandemic is unclear. I would be very interested to see if these sorts of cases increased or subsided once the pandemic set in. I have not received any similar reports since the close of my cousins case in January of 2020. I had numerous such reports throughout 2019. It seems that church officials would be invested in the idea that possessions and oppressions were on the rise, and there was an increased need for exorcists. It would create both a spiritual and economic dependency on them and their clergy. And yet these two cases demonstrate, self-empowerment and mutual aid community support as the solution to adressing spiritual problems. Louisville’s fundamental belief that the clergy could not help her appeared to hold true as she was able to starve away her energetic parasite, rather than feeding a nameless ancient demon. My cousin vanquished a devil, in a Chicano way, outside of formal institutions, and through a connection to her heritage and family traditions. There are many tools and methods available for battling malevolent entities. However, you go about fighting evil, be sure to draw on your own traditions, and power. Know when you are in over your head and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- CSS Investigation report Louisville 2018: Attempts to Name an energetic parasite
- CSS investigation report Hollingsworth 2019: Devil in the Doorway
- Catholic Encyclopedia, Exorcism, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05709a.htm
- Catholic Answers: Demonic Oppression is Real, and There’s Something You Can Do About It, Devon Rose, May 22, 2017 https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/demonic-oppression-is-real-and-theres-something-you-can-do-about-it
- Catholic Answers Interview with an Exorcist by Patrick Coffin, May 1st 2013; https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/interview-with-an-exorcist
- Encyclopedia of Child behavior and development, 2011 edition, eddited by Sam Goldstein and Jack Nagleri https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-0-387-79061-9_870
- Vatican to hold exorcist training course after ‘rise in possessions’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/30/vatican-to-hold-exorcist-training-course-after-rise-in-possessions-exorcism-priests
- International School of Exorcism https://internationalschoolofexorcism.org/course-levels/
- Understanding Voodoo Possession by Sally Painter, http://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/about-paranormal/understanding-voodoo-possession
- From Benin to Bourbon Street: A brief history of Louisiana Voodoo, By Kim Kelley, Oct 14, 2014 https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/r7g5ar/from-benin-to-bourbon-street-a-brief-history-of-louisiana-voodoo
This article appears here with permission of the author and Werewolf Radar. Follow the link to the original post on Werewolf Radar Paranormal News.