Heart of Darkness Over the Emerald Isle

by Kenneth Francis (March 2018)

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Matthias Grünewald, 15th C.

renowned Irish exorcist has called upon his country’s bishops to provide more backup in dealing with an “exponential” surge of evil. Father Pat Collins wrote an open letter to Church hierarchy in which he also reported seeing a parallel between the increase in evil activity with a growing apostasy within the Church, according to the Catholic website, LifeSiteNews.


“As this has happened,” he wrote, “there has been increasing evidence of the malicious activity of the evil one.” Fr Collins said he was constantly contacted daily by desperate people asking for his help in handling what they believe to be demonic possession and other evil activity.


And he said he was “baffled” the Irish bishops aren’t doing more to designate priests to address the various inquiries, which include people declaring supernatural encounters, being pulled from their beds and also out-and-out possession.


Outside of Irish publications like The Irish Catholic, this news is being ignored by the secular mainstream media, which is quite hostile to Christianity, particularly Catholicism. But it wasn’t always that way. When the movie The Exorcist was screened in Dublin’s Adelphi cinema in 1974, members of the Order of Malta first aid were present at the cinema’s entry and exit doors to help patrons, as movie-goers were handed sick-bags on their way in to watch the film. And there was a surge in church and confession attendance, as well as post-film counselling, in the weeks and months after the movie’s release.


As for the movie itself and the existence of demons: The Exorcist is arguably the most terrifying movie ever made. The late American movie critic Roger Ebert said: “Our objections, our questions, occur in an intellectual context after the movie has ended. During the movie there are no reservations, but only experiences. We feel shock, horror, nausea, fear, and some small measure of dogged hope.”


Released in 1973, this masterpiece film (unfortunately, with some dated special effects) is based on a best-selling 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty. The book was, in turn, based on an alleged true story that happened to a young boy in 1949, according to reports in local newspapers in Maryland, USA.


I cannot verify the authenticity of this story but, according to press reports and witnesses whose claims were documented during the 1940s, the person in question was born on June 1, 1935. He is identified under the pseudonyms of ‘Robbie Mannheim’ or ‘Roland Doe’. ‘Robbie’, aged 14, was an only child born into a Christian family in Cottage City, Maryland. He was your average boy and was close to his Aunt Harriet, who was a spiritualist and dabbled in the Ouija board. She introduced the board to ‘Robbie’ and he later started to dabble with it on his own.


However, on Saturday, January 15, 1949, ‘Robbie’s’ parents went out for the evening, while his grandmother minded him. The pair heard a constant dripping sound in the house but could not find the source. They also noticed that a painting of Christ hanging on the wall began to shake. When ‘Robbie’s’ parents arrived home, the dripping sounds stopped. But this was followed by the sound of rapping and scratches around the house.


To cut a long story short, the boy ended up in Georgetown University Hospital where he was successfully exorcised by priests. But back to the movie and William Peter Blatty’s book: it is a 12-year-old girl called Regan who is possessed by a demon. She lives with her actress mother in a rented house on film location in Georgetown, Washington. After playing with a Ouija board, Regan’s bubbly, playful personality changes radically to that of someone possessed. In response, her mother consults many doctors and psychiatrists but none of them can understand what’s wrong with her daughter.


Sitting down in a hospital room with a team of doctors and psychiatrists, the clinic director tells her there is nothing else they can do for Regan. “Quite frankly, we don’t know much about it except that it starts with some conflict or guilt that eventually leads to the patient’s delusion that his body’s been invaded by an alien intelligence; a spirit if you will,” he says.


Chris tells the doctors she will not put her daughter into an asylum. Then one of the doctors asks her if she or Regan have any religious beliefs. When Chris tells them they don’t have any, the doctor suggests an exorcism. He tells her, in a subtle sniggering tone, it is a stylized ritual in which rabbis or priests try to drive out the so-called invading spirit. In despair, Chris leaves the clinic to consider the ritual on her daughter. The story ends with her daughter being successfully exorcized by two priests, both losing their lives during and immediately after the ritual.


If evil spirits exist, then nothing comes close to the concept of demonic possession as this story illustrates. Think about it: a disembodied evil spirit invading one’s mind and taking over it in the vilest ways possible. Was all that happened to ‘Robbie’ (or the fictitious Regan) brought on by the use of the Ouija board? Today, in the secular West, many people wouldn’t think twice of ‘playing’ with these boards.


But Christian opposition to them is still firm. Darren Gallagher, a spokesman for Ellel Ministries, which counts healing and deliverance among its activities, told Christian Today that Ouija boards were “an attempt for those who are living to contact the dead to gain an understanding of the future . . . The fact that people’s intention is to contact the spiritual realm outside the blessings and parameters that God has set out could lead to them to connect with the evil spiritual realm,” he said.


The 2011 movie The Rite is loosely based on Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, which in turn is based on real events as witnessed and recounted by the American then-exorcist-in-training, Father Gary Thomas. Fr Thomas speaks of the many who are moving away from traditional faiths and looking for alternative religions or spirituality.


Speaking to CNN, he said, “A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that . . . classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous.” He said people can get themselves involved in Wicca, or they will go see some sort of fortune-teller or a séance.


Speaking on the American Busted Halo Radio show, Fr Thomas added: “On my team, my exorcism team, I have a trained clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a physician, all of whom are practising Catholics, and all of whom believe in the possibility of Satan’s existence, but they’re not people who say there’s a demon under every rock or chair.”


He said that any person showing signs of possession must be tested by psychological professionals and doctors, and questions about drug and alcohol addiction must be asked. Some 80 per cent of the people he meets who say they are possessed have actually suffered some kind of abuse. In most of these cases, Ouija boards were not the cause but in some cases they were. In some cases the cause for possession can come from involvement with satanic cults.


One such case was documented by the board-certified psychiatrist and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, Richard E. Gallagher. The case entailed an American, middle-aged Caucasian woman known only by the pseudonym, ‘Julia’. ‘Julia allegedly levitated six inches off the ground and demonstrated paranormal psychic powers and spoke foreign languages unknown to her.


“Periodically, in our presence, ‘Julia’ would go into a trance state of a recurring nature,” writes Dr Gallagher. “Mentally troubled individuals often ‘dissociate,’ but ‘Julia’s’ trances were accompanied by an unusual phenomenon: Out of her mouth would come various threats, taunts and scatological language, phrases like ‘Leave her alone, you idiot’, ‘She’s ours’, ‘Leave, you imbecile priest’, or just ‘Leave!'” ‘Julia’ would have no recollection of saying such things upon recovering from the trance-like state, according to Dr Gallagher.


He said sometimes objects around her would fly off the shelves, the rare phenomenon of psychokinesis known to parapsychologists. “‘Julia’ was also in possession of knowledge of facts and occurrences beyond any possibility of their natural acquisition,” Gallagher added.


“She commonly reported information about the relatives, household composition, family deaths and illnesses, etc., of members of our team, without ever having observed or been informed about them. As an example, she knew the personality and precise manner of death (i.e., the exact type of cancer) of a relative of a team member that no one could conceivably have guessed.”


In 1 Peter 5: 8, Christians are told: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Also, in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Finally, St Paul said in Philippians 4:8: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”


When we look at today’s societies in the West, most things that are honourable, right, true, pure, beautiful and admirable are regularly vilified in favour of the satanic. We’ve gone from beautiful songs of yesteryear entitled ‘Poetry In Motion’ and ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, to ‘Slap My Bitch Up’ and ‘Too Drunk to F***’.


Almost a decade before the Adelphi cinema screened The Exorcist, in 1965, The Rolling Stones played a gig there to the sound of hundreds of screaming female fans. Mick Jagger would three years later sing ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, a homage to Satan. One wonders if the devil has tricked the Irish people, and the West, into believing he does not exist.



Kenneth Francis is a Contributing Editor at New English Review. For the past 20 years, he has worked as an editor in various publications, as well as a university lecturer in journalism. He also holds an MA in Theology and is the author of The Little Book of God, Mind, Cosmos and Truth (St Pauls Publishing).

More by Kenneth Francis here.

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