Thursday, May 28, 2020

Paranormal Parasites Episode One--Exorcists and Exorcisms, Part One

The centuries-old practice of exorcism is on the rise. Why now?

“We had always been raised not to question authority figures. He’s a priest — what he said is holy writ,” Joaquin Oviedo, a retired high school teacher, said. “We never imagined he was a phony.” Problem was...Mena wasn't a priest. In fact, he was an imposter. Not only did he abscond with tens of thousands of dollars (and that's only what they know about) but weddings had to be re-officiated by legitimate priests, as did baptisms, christenings, and other sacraments. But lost in all the legal mumbo-jumbo, there's a more intimate, painful, human cost. 

Mena's not the only such imposter. More fake priests are defrocked every year. In 2018, for example, a man named Miguel Angel Ibarra was exposed right before Christmas after eighteen years of posing as a Catholic priest. The Colombian native was caught at the parish he'd been preaching at in Medina Sidonia, Spain after investigation proved he'd falsified his ordination paperwork. 

Religion is a huge part of the human experience. Roughly a decade ago, the Pew Research Survey counted well over two billion Christians on this planet, and is now nearing two and a half billion worshipers. In recent years, there's been a huge rise in reports of dark or demonic hauntings. The Catholic Church was overwhelmed with requests for exorcisms, becoming so inundated that they were caught off-guard. This led to the establishment of a Course on Exorcism and Prayersof Liberation at the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum within the Holy See.

What's that, you ask? It's literally exorcist school. Right now, the Vatican is working to place an exorcist into every diocese in the world, including here in the US. In fact, the exorcism course is a non-denominational class, where prospective exorcists from any religion can study the most dangerous form of spiritual warfare possible. If that doesn't convince you of the urgency the Holy See is approaching the rising threat caused to humanity by the diabolical, nothing will. 

And this is where the paranormal and spiritual worlds collide in a very pragmatic and potentially lethal way. Although only about a third of America's nearly 200 dioceses have official exorcists who've been trained by a Catholic church, there are innumerable exorcists who claim to conduct spiritual warfare against demons outside of Catholicism. While some of these exorcists are sincerely going toe to toe with demonic entities, some are not. If the subject of a demonic attack gets hooked up with a fake exorcist, his situation can go from worse to worst. 

Yes, I used worse/worst instead of bad/worse deliberately. 

So how do you tell the difference between a real exorcist and a fake one? Well, it requires someone that most victims of demonic attacks are running a little short on. Meticulous attention to detail. 

Let's clear something up at the onset. Do you have to get a Catholic priest to help you if you're under demonic attack? Once upon a time--and a surprisingly recent time, too--the clergy of protestant denominations would tell people who'd come to them for help that only a Catholic priest could exorcise a demon. Even then, though, the Catholic church wasn't exactly happy to help someone out. Especially after the release of William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist and the subsequent film two years later, exorcism suddenly came 'into fashion'. The tag line 'based upon a true story' titillated audiences, and the idea that demonic possession was actually real permeated pop culture almost overnight--something that rarely happened in an age before the internet. 

In an interview I conducted with top US Exorcist Father Gary Thomas (San Jose, CA diocese) in 2017, the Exorcist craze caught the church off-guard because Catholicism itself was in a state of flux. There was a growing sense among the Catholic clergy that Satan and demons were allegorical--basically literary devices created to personify evil and give it a form of sentience. 

But that's not necessarily the case. While sure, there's a definite trend towards tulpas (a belief so powerful that it essentially creates what the person/people believe in) as a possible explanation for the growing number of demonic cases in the US, there's still a significant number of exorcisms conducted in the world--not only by the Catholic Church but by ministers and priests of a wide number of religions. So no, you don't necessarily have to have a Catholic priest exorcise you or your family or your home. 

But you need to do your due diligence. Make certain the clergyman you talk to is a practicing minister of a legitimate religion. Many scam artists operate under the umbrella of the "old Catholic Church" or the "Order of Exorcists" or "The Sacred Order of St, Michael the Archangel". Some purported exorcists claim to be able to train you to become one as well--for a nominal fee. The fact of the matter is that in my opinion, you need to go first to the minister of your own church and ask him or her for guidance. And before you let anyone drag you into a spiritual struggle with the demonic, you have to be--NEED to be--vetted medically and psychologically. That's a condition the Catholic Church has imposed in order for an exorcism to take place, and believe me: that's something you want to make absolutely certain happens. 

The easiest way to find out if an exorcist isn't what he or she purports to be is to run the street address provided on their webpage through Google maps. If the street level view is of a strip mall (with a UPS Store or Mailboxes storefront in particular) or an apartment block, I wouldn't trust my health, safety, and spirituality to that alleged exorcist. 

You could ignore me, naturally. I wouldn't recommend it. 

Stay tuned, folks. There are about to be a lot of new entries in the coming weeks. I'm researching my new books on the paranormal, Demonic Synchronicity (about common occurrences in pre-internet demonic hauntings) and The Bell Entity (why "Bell Witch" is an inhuman entity perpetrating one of the longest and most violent hauntings in America). I'll be investigating several sites just as soon as the quarantines lift, and I'll post my findings here. If nothing else, it should be a rip-roarin' spooky time. 

But even that pales in comparison to what could happen to anyone who falls into the clutches of the paranormal parasites. Next up in this series? Textbook cases of exorcisms gone bad and why they did. 

The Annaliese Michel case, and why that's not the only horror story out there. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Pandemic Day Ten--The Danse Macabre

Our world is no longer ours, but it has a soundtrack and illustrations most folks don't know about. So play the soundtrack as you read this piece, and I'll share some truly extraordinary art. The arts are where I find my self-expression, and so I'll use them as I try to make sense of the last ten days. 

The soundtrack (hit play then read):


And back to our world as we all try to reclaim it as our own.

Danse des morts--1493 painting by Michael Wolegemut
On the surface, nothing seems to have drastically changed. The spring is settling in. Leaves are fleshing out the trees. Crocuses, daffodils, and forsythia are blooming in my yard. When I stepped outside a few minutes ago in the earliest hours of a new day--March 30th, 2020--I could smell all the scents of an early Ohio spring, driven up the cliff this road winds along the edge of by the soft howl of winds still lingering from the storms that crashed overhead all last night and early today.

But now? Now we're dancing to a horrible new tune and we don't know the steps.

We all had ample time to prepare for this, frankly. Years. All the bug-out people we laughed at a few months ago aren't worried about finding toilet paper somewhere tomorrow. Most of the rest of us are. I'm not because I'm married to the kind of man who's just built for crisis management. Sent him out for milk and he came back with twenty rolls of toilet paper, sixteen rolls of paper towels, and six boxes of tissues. Sent him out the next day for bread and he shows up with ten pounds of ground beef, five pounds of chicken, and a huge pork roast. My husband is a handy guy to have around. I'm lucky in that respect. 

But there's no guarantee matters will remain this way. Now that the quarantine--yes, I'm calling "social distancing" what it really is at its core--has been extended for a full month I find myself wondering how things will transpire after Pandemic Day Twenty...or Thirty...or Seventy-five. 

Koper Regional Museum 16th Century fresco
 I'm no different from anyone else these days. I read the increasingly grim news, watch the briefings, lose my temper with idiots disseminating misinformation online, and then go back over all the news I've just tried to absorb in the hopes that I've missed something...that somehow, things are getting better and they're back on track. 

Then I have to force myself to realize that no, things aren't getting better at all. 

Three days ago, America had 1000+ deaths from COVID-19. Yesterday, that total had doubled. Tragically, that exponential growth is only too easy to calculate, and if I told you "you do the math", you'd be able to do that math easily and in your head. Math, never my favorite subject of learning, is even more loathsome now than it's ever been.

Facts and figures combine, dancing in front of my eyes like a mural on a medieval ossuaries like a violently spinning danse macabre and no one gets to sit this dance out. We're all dancing to a tune hummed by a virus and composed by microorganisms so tiny but oh so easily capable of felling the strongest humans it pirouettes around...then into...then through until finally the melody fades and man meets his mortality.
St. Nicholas Cathedral-Tallinn, Estonia
fragment 16th century painting

During the Middle Ages in Europe, the Danse Macabre was an allegorical reference to the inevitability of Death in times of plague or epidemic. In some of Europe's oldest extant cemeteries, the Danse Macabre was portrayed by artists as a bacchanalia shared by mortals and the Grim Reaper, where they danced wildly, drank freely, and had orgies--a last hurrah before everyone's dance ended.

Math, music, melody, macabre, mortality.

A pandemic with a soundtrack.

A way to tell Death to go fuck himself or to bring you a new bottle of wine. 

You probably recognized the music, but not many people would recognize this as the Danse Macabre, composed by Camille Saint-Saens in 1874. The images are all depictions of the Danse Macabre from medieval Europe. In a harsh day to day life and faced with the horrors of smallpox or the bubonic plague, people looked to what they assumed would be their last few days as a time to sample all of life's pleasures if they could. That's what the Danse Macabre is all about really. I mean--if you're going to have black boils rise on your body with a high fever and terrible pain and you know those boils are going to literally explode, spraying contagious black pus all over everything then who cares if the old guy next door sees your boobs? In a world where "medicine" consisted of drinking nasty potions that were usually poisonous or getting your veins laid open with a rusty knife to allow the "evil humors" to leave your body, your survival rate wasn't all that great. So they celebrated the fun stuff in anticipation of the fatal stuff. 

But for us, things are different. Instead of partying like it's 1999 with all our friends while we wait to die, the world of medicine is totally different. Clean. Sterile, Fighting off the contagion while relieving the symptoms. We don't have a kegger and invite Death to come on in and do body shots of tequila. No, our Danse Macabre is much different.

The Dance of Death,
Polish painting circa 1670

Look--the plague isn't partisan. Coronavirus will kill liberals, conservatives, communists, socialists, monarchists, moderates, and dictators without bias or prejudice. This isn't a Red State/Blue State issue or problem. Look around you right now--is there any political base untouched by this pandemic? No. So if you're too evolved, too educated to get a blindfolded group sex party together to combat "social distancing" with an allegorical medieval character toting a scythe, then you don't need to get your information about the pandemic from a politician/elected official/minister/waste management/Geek Squad/Reddit/old dude down the street/Twitter/Facebook/partridge in a pear tree/Grim Reaper/blogger.

You need to listen to the DOCTORS. Because right now? Medical researchers and physicians are the only ones who are providing information regarding the virus dispassionately and accurately. If you don't, you might as well invite the Devil to pick you up at five because what the politicians are feeding us as "facts" is actually all spin-doctored propaganda, devised with an eye toward the upcoming election. The doctors don't give a damn about their TV ratings or how much interaction their Tweets are getting. What they care about is advising the public on how best to avoid infection and that's primarily the information we all need.

See, the end result of the Danse Macabre has always been the same. Once the music ends, the dance is over for all the dancers. They leave their mortal shells behind for the death details to pick up and they follow the Grim Reaper into Death. And if you get your "facts" from a politician, that's the outcome you're risking.

So yes, our world doesn't seem to have changed much on the surface of things. But we all know--whether we admit it or not--that everything is totally different now than it was a month ago. We're facing a legitimate crisis that supersedes any global threat of my lifetime. It doesn't matter when this pandemic is finally brought to a close because COVID-19 is going to leave behind a world that's lost its innocent belief that our society is too advanced and tech-savvy to fall prey to a microbe.

Hopefully, we'll all end up wiser when this is over. One of the best ways to ensure that happens is to decline the temptation to twirl in the arms of Death during our ultra-modern Danse Macabre. Politicians aren't going to solve this pandemic. They're as qualified to cure you as those medieval "physicians" with their rusty, bloodstained knives and their possets made of stones from a goat's stomach crushed with ivory and mixed with donkey bile.

Whatever you do, sit out the Danse Macabre. For all our sakes.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Real Pandemic Hidden Behind The Coronavirus Is Not What You Think

I think we've all wondered at times if the world could survive a crisis. 

For those of us who were kids in the 1970s and 80s, the catalyst of disaster was nuclear weapons. I'll never forget the day that I finally figured out that "duck and cover" wouldn't do anything but give us something to do right before we died. I was ten. 

Then, of course, terrorism became the boogeyman. Not so much in small town or small city USA, which is where I've lived most of my life but in big cities. Washington. Los Angeles. 


The past decade or so the agent of dystopian fear has been more imaginary. The Walking Dead, aka the zombie apocalypse. Yeah, not too scary for me. I write horror for fun. 

But now? Now we're looking at an antagonist that shouldn't have ever existed--a pandemic that so far cannot be halted with modern medicine. The fears of a pandemic have been an on-again, off-again nightmare for the past twenty years. Pretty much started for me when those f**king idiots were sending around anthrax in the wake of 9/11. Whether it was ebola or SARS, there was always something lurking around the corner that fizzled out before it impacted too many people in Europe and the US.

Until now.

I don't have words of wisdom for you that will explain all this. I don't have the medical training to discuss anything more than the most minor factoids that the CDC and common sense would dictate. That being said, however--

Politics is something I can write about.

Here's the situation in a nutshell. The past 12-15 years, the American government has been stagnated by party politics. No, I don't give a damn about either party. When you get right down to it, the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans who are just as bad as the Democrats. I'd love to stack some more party names into that statement, but the fact of the matter is that we have no other viable parties. Corruption, back room deals, big industry and pharmaceuticals, special interest groups, PACs and SuperPACs, religious organizations, and lobbyists--that's who really controls the American government. Not the voters.

Not us.

Never has this been more apparent than now, during a global pandemic, when the US government couldn't get its shit together long enough to cross the aisle and come up with solutions to the crises now facing us. Yeah, I know. You've heard me snarling about the two-party system for years. But now it's no longer just a personal dislike. The COVID-19 virus has got me spooked and I'm not afraid to say it. And in the meantime, while you and me and billions of other people worldwide are staring down the barrel of the pandemic shotgun the United States government can't even agree on what's necessary to supply aid to its citizens who already are having to deal with supply shortages on food and other necessities, loss of pay for folks who live paycheck to paycheck or who are tipped employees, and a medical system that's already overwhelmed at the front end of this outbreak. With models of the outbreak leaning toward the peak infection rate in the US not coming until July, take a good look around you.

We're living in a REM song.

An article from The Atlantic over the weekend by Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer traced the nightmarish incompetence of the federal government to give the medical and research sectors the ability to assertively track, diagnose, and treat the coronavirus. Their article also gave viral expert and research scientist Trevor Bedford a platform to share some truly alarming facts.

If there is one thing about the novel coronavirus that you must understand, it’s that it is a firecracker with a long fuse. Here is what the explosion looks like: Every six days, the number of people infected by the disease doubles, according to estimates from Bedford and other epidemiologists. At the start of February, Bedford now believes, the United States had something like 430 infections; if American interventions have done nothing to slow the disease’s spread, then his simple calculations show that more than 120,000 people could be infected by this weekend. Because of the great uncertainty, it’s probably most appropriate to give Bedford’s range: About 60,000 to 245,000 people are now infected with COVID-19 in the United States.

So if the current models are correct and Americans won't see the virus peak until July, we're looking at four and a half months of dealing with the ramifications of the coronavirus. Think about it: life without schools, churches, and for most Americans their jobs and/or income. Sheltering at home turns into an elongated vigil, and when you do have to run out to the store or the bank then you face three weeks when every little cough or sneeze feels significant. And if you catch coronavirus, you face quarantine for weeks by a medical community that's woefully understaffed and undersupplied.

There is no one person to blame. The blame can be spread around evenly between Democrats and Republicans, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the CDC and state and local health monitoring facilities. The CDC didn't confirm community transmission of COVID-19 until February 26 even though there were already at least sixty known cases in the US.

And the White House. Oh yes, plenty of blame to be slathered onto the Oval Office where the President of the United States first mocked the virus and delayed federal response to the eruption of the medical and financial impacts of COVID-19 through January, February, and over half of March before Trump assembled his too-little too-late task force. And no, that's not partisan. That's a fact. Just a few examples:

At a February 10 campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire: "And by the way, the virus, they're working hard. Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away."

In a February 26 briefing at the White House: The infection seems to have gone down over the last two days.  As opposed to getting larger, it’s actually gotten smaller.  In one instance where we think we can be — it’s somewhat reliable, it seems to have gotten quite a bit smaller.

In a February 27 meeting with African-American leaders: "It’s going to disappear.  One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.  And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better.  It could maybe go away.  We’ll see what happens.  Nobody really knows."

And all sorts of other examples, which you can find for yourself in this cross-referenced article on the Mercury News.

But, it's not just the Trump administration who are guilty of screwing the biggest and most infectious pooch the US has faced since the 1917-18's Spanish flu epidemic.Both sides of the aisle have been tinkering with federal legislation to alleviate the disaster-in-the-making coronavirus, ticky-tacking so that pet projects can also benefit from emergency legislation. And just last night, the Democrats killed an Emergency Economic Relief legislation in the Senate--$1.8 trillion dollars of legislation desperately needed to help Americans financially and shore up the US stock market.

You know--maybe there were valid reasons for voting that aid package down. Maybe there were inherent flaws or oblique advantages for the big-pharmaceutical corporations that support Trump and other Republicans. But in the end, that doesn't matter to most Americans. What does matter right now is feeding their kids or finding things like meat, milk, fresh vegetables, and paper products in the grocery store. And as we stare into the face of what's looking dangerously more like another depression instead of a recession, Americans don't give a damn about someone getting a bridge package in Timbuktu approved. All they care about is getting the help they need, and it's glaringly obvious that nothing is more important to the politicians in Washington than scoring off their opponents no matter what they toss aside in the process.

So yes, Americans. Your government has failed you yet again, only this time we're not talking about some stupid impeachment trial. We're talking about decisions being made, legislation being killed, delusions being reported as fact. We're talking about a legislature that doesn't seem to care how many people are sick or dying because all they really care about is winning their reelection campaigns. We're talking about a President of the United States who's now glorifying himself as the hero of the pandemic by keeping COVID-19 when just in the past month he's mocked the virus, downplayed its importance, stalled a federal response that might have saved lives, and turned the pandemic into a polarizing morass of conflicting information so heinous that his own team has to step forward and correct or refute what Trump said just moments before.

We're talking about the real pandemic in this country: a two-party political system that should be held responsible for the spread of the virus in America and every single death that occurs because the patient was not diagnosed early enough or the hospitals and physicians don't have the equipment they need to help.

The real pandemic here? The escalating inadequacy of the federal government to effect positive change on behalf of its citizens. That's the real diagnosis of this disaster. The federal government is nothing more than a roiling, diseased collection of Typhoid Marys infecting the American way of life. And even when there is a vaccine for coronavirus (and we're realistically looking at 1-2 years before there's any sort of preventative or cure for COVID-19) the self-injected infection of the federal government will still remain and the citizens of this country are the physicians who are baffled about how to halt the spread of the disease.

Physician, heal thyself. Eliminate the real disease that's centralized in DC. Kick them ALL out and start over because this catastrophe could have been avoided with just one politician willing to take a stand on behalf of all the rest of us. We were failed by the people we elected to represent our basic existence in this nation.

So yes, physician, heal thyself and remember that there is a cure for the real pandemic here. It's called "Election Day".