The Mysteria, part three: Spiritus Immundi
Exorcism, spirits, and the people "from the stars."
I. “An Apparently Demon-Influenced Teen”
There’s a strange reference to be found in an article about the now-former pastor of a large mega-church in South Florida, Hayes Wicker:
I don’t know anything about the church member with the gun, but I know Hayes Wicker. I also know the “apparently demon-influenced teen.” I actually knew that guy quite well, and was present, along with Wicker and several other people, at his exorcism.
The night it happened, it was five men and one woman against a severely out-of-shape, overweight teenager screaming profanities in a blood-curdling voice. One of the men there was Hayes Wicker. Another was the youth pastor of the church, a guy named Doug. There was another teenager there, and a fourth man whose name I can never quite remember. The fifth man’s name was Cliff I think, and he had the body of a former linebacker—about six and half feet (2 meters) tall and roughly 275 lbs (125 kilo).
They were all pinning that “apparently demon-influenced teenager” down on the ground. The big guy had his knees pressed into the demoniac’s chest. With a shocking amount of strength, the kid on the ground threw that man off him really hard. The other men then held his feet and hands to the ground while the youth pastor’s wife read scripture at him like it was a spell book.
This all went on for about 20 minutes. The pastor spoke to the demons, demanding their names, compelling them in the name of the Holy Spirit to leave their host. The possessed youth’s voice kept changing as each demon revealed itself and appeared to flee from his body.
All but the last one, anyway. It wouldn’t reveal its name or what kind of spirit it was. Though it eventually fell silent, I don’t think any of us were certain it had truly left.
II. What Happened to Diana
I’ve written quite often about Diana lately, and perhaps that’s why I suddenly found myself thinking of another Diana, a friend—or former friend—whose story two decades later still haunts me.
That particular Diana was a completely knock-out of a woman. Neither “beautiful” nor “gorgeous” go far enough to describe her beauty. “Shocking” and also “breathtaking” get a little closer to the truth, but even still that’s all insufficient. For even a man without the slightest erotic interest in the female sex, Diana’s beauty was startling to behold.
To some, it’s considered a bit misogynistic to describe a woman first by her looks. That’s hardly my intention, though, but rather to give you a sense of the power and presence she had on those around her. Undoubtedly, she likewise saw her affect, the way others around her became a bit slackjawed and mute when they had her attention.
She was hardly arrogant about this. Actually, she was a deeply warm and authentic person, never caring for the sorts of influence games she most easily could have won in any social circle she entered. Diana was also deeply intelligent with a sharp wit. She’d read well and widely, and though her specific education was in fashion design she could just as easily discuss classical music, continental philosophy, economic theory, and obscure film critique as she could anything else.
I adored being around Diana. We’d meet for coffee often, though it was very rare we’d be alone. Others were often there, seeing her through the window from the street and dropping whatever else they’d planned to do in order to talk to her. When more joined us, I’d watch her become instantly expansive. It was impossible to become jealous for her attention, because she never seemed to divide it but rather multiply it with each new person.
She was truly a lovely person, a fact which made what came after that much more horrid.
As the months of our friendships grew, I started to notice something very…well, odd. We’d be talking, laughing or deeply engaged in some intellectual theory, and she’d suddenly say something very, very cruel. The first time it happened, I couldn’t believe those words had come out of her mouth.
“Why’d you say that?” I asked, feeling quite hurt.
“Say what?” she replied, a response I soon learned to expect from her much more often.
I repeated what she’d said, and she stared back at me blankly. “I didn’t say that,” she replied, and then added, “you must have misheard me.”
Because she was as warm as ever, because nothing had changed in her voice or her presence, I let the matter drop. The rest of the conversation was quite pleasant, very much like all others had been, so I did what I could to put that strange cruelty out of mind.
We’d hung out quite a few times after that event, and she’d been those times the same charming, effervescent, and brilliant woman I’d so adored. So, when she said something even more cruel a few week later, I was really disturbed. I wasn’t really angry at what she said, but I got quite frustrated with her when she again denied she’d said anything mean. She even seemed to turn it back on me a bit, suggesting that I’d willfully misheard her.
You’ll perhaps then understand why I didn’t return her phone calls for a few days, and why the next time I saw her at a cafe I decided to keep walking by. She waved, though, and smiled, and so I stopped in. That afternoon’s conversation reminded me again why I adored her so, and so I let drop my earlier grievance…until it happened again.
This time there were several people around, and they all acted as if she’d said nothing strange. I didn’t confront her about it, because by the time I’d really understood her words and then noticed no one else had reacted, everyone was laughing about something else.
I decided to stop seeing her. I liked her a lot, but the sudden insults and her subsequent refusal to apologize really felt awful. Worse, I felt a little crazy after that conversation. No one else had reacted to her words, so I worried maybe I wasn’t mentally well myself. My mother has a severe form of schizophrenia, and at that time I was quite afraid of becoming schizophrenic as well. Perhaps I’d heard something that wasn’t really there.
A few weeks later, I ran into a mutual friend of ours. She asked me if I was still hanging out with Diana, and I told her no. “What about you?” I asked her.
“No. She said some really mean stuff to me, denied she said it, and wouldn’t apologize.”
Hearing her say this was a deep relief but also a deep sadness. I wasn’t going crazy, then. Diana was being cruel to others, too. But that’d didn’t make things any better.
Other mutual friends attested to the same thing. We’d all noticed Diana would suddenly blurt out horrible insults, and then act as if she’d said nothing strange at all. Stranger still was how we’d all just wondered if we’d been going crazy, if we’d not actually heard what we thought we heard.
“It’s like she’s possessed,” someone had said. “Like, something comes over her that she doesn’t even notice, and then it’s gone.”
That felt true, but also not true. I’d personally witnessed a possession and exorcism. Something certainly seemed like it was inside her, but it didn’t feel like a demon to me.