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The Boy Who Was Possessed Remembers

An anonymous reader comments on the demon possession in Indiana thread:

These stories come along now and then and always compel me. My wife wonders why, considering my reactions. She once told me a secret, of how an angel appeared to her in childhood, and then she wondered why I was skeptical. I told her I did not know: perhaps I was a functional materialist, although I certainly confess my belief in angels and demons. My prejudice about such stories indicates conviction contrary to my confession. Why would I doubt such a story from my own wife that jives with my faith?

The reason I am compelled by these stories is not my basic belief, as a traditional Christian, that demons are real, but because of my personal experience that disturbs me even with my confession of faith. My parents and I share many strange memories of what we call my “demonic possession” in childhood. We visited a Pentecostal deliverance minister when I was seven, and the ordeal was over.

I have certain vivid memories of the experience that I cannot explain apart from evil supernatural forces. It would be convenient to deny these memories even while retaining my religious belief in the supernatural, because then I could avoid sounding like a nut when I tell the story. I tell the story to virtually no one. My parents remember much more than I both because of their age and because I would frequently have no memory of an “attack,” and what was said and done.

My experience was similar to that of the children in Indiana. My face would contort, and my parents would not recognize my eyes. I would scream obscenities I had never heard and accuse my parents of things that I could not possibly have known of with words I did not know. I would thrash and convulse, and my two parents together could not restrain me. I would threaten violence against myself in the third person, and threatened to murder myself. Not surprisingly, my parents sought whatever help they could find. I was diagnosed as schizophrenic by one psychologist: a diagnoses that I am thankful will remain sealed in secrecy from all, although I wonder about the implications of the opinion in background checks and such. I was only five or six years old at the time. I was hospitalized for a time in a psychiatric institution, where I behaved normally, and had further regular observation at a day-school type treatment center for disturbed children. I told my psychologists of visions in my mind of spirits in the guise of clowns who threatened me and frightened me. Back with my parents, I would again thrash, verbally assault, and threaten violence with frequently no memory I was doing so.

At the suggestion of my grandfather, who was a retired missionary, my parents consulted another pastor who had a reputation for dealing with demons. After many prayers, he identified demons by name, and compelled them in the name of Christ to release me and never return to torment me. I spoke with him in voices not my own and the voices gave him names I had never heard. He used the name of Jesus many times in blessing, and proclaimed my baptism and confession of faith to compel the spirits, and told me to cough several times during his prayers. Since then, and I believe by God’s grace, I have experienced no torment or experience of this kind.

I rather anticipate the skepticism. I am now in my thirties, and was an honors student in college. I have no further history of mental illness, and am an active member of academic societies. I am not ignorant or fanatical. I am not interested in talking about it, save anonymously.

I read these kinds of stories infrequently and by accident, and then cannot stop thinking about them. I cannot blame anyone who does not believe them. It is far, far easier, I think, to rule out all this sort of thing as crazy: the delusions of impressionable and unintelligent people who have let religious mumbo jumbo get the better of their emotions.
I also laugh when I see the videos of Pentecostals “slain in the spirit,” or worked into hysteria in public, but this seems radically different than all that. I feel the desire to dismiss the thing when I encounter it, but I also identify this as the materialist “spirit” of my own age, and my own experience is clear testimony against the materialist explanation that I cannot deny. Just the same, I am not attempting to explain any of it. I do not know anything about the why and how, but I believe in demonic possession, and it is not a matter to toy with or mock.

I think we have established in yesterday’s thread that many of this blog’s readers do not believe that this sort of thing is possible. On this thread, I would like to hear only from readers who have at some point seen or dealt with things that indicate the presence of supernatural evil. I’m interested not in arguments, but in stories. I’m not requiring you to say, “Yes, that was a demon, no doubt about it.” Rather, I’m interested in things you saw or heard that were creepy and malevolent, and that you cannot easily explain. I’ve told the story in this space about the exorcism of a haunted house I attended, in which a large older woman who had just received the Eucharist (a mass was said at the place) was thrown up and backwards over a chair as I watched, in a manner that she couldn’t possibly have done herself. I also saw a lighted candle rise up out of a candleholder, hover above the table, extinguish itself, then fall into a dining chair — this, with nobody near the table at all. The exorcist said it was the presence and power of demons. I endorse that view, as a believing Christian, but even if I didn’t, I don’t know how one would explain the things I observed.

So: give us your stories.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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