Tag Archives: possession

Demons, Possession, and the Book I Almost Didn’t Finish

 

A photo I took from inside the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Missouri.

A photo I took from inside the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, Missouri.

I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding the subject of demons or demonic possession on this blog. This isn’t due to being afraid of the topic or needing to leave the closet light on when I talk about it, but because the BS-o-meter tends to immediately start flashing in my head when the topic is brought up. It’s not something I do on purpose, and it’s not that I’m trying to be a jerk, it just doesn’t resonate with me, I guess. I’ve always done my best to not offend anyone in discussions about their beliefs, or when people recount their demonic experiences. As Jim Harold famously says, “I keep an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out.” Most of the time I just listen and try to see the activity as simply paranormal, just like any other experience that may or may not be explainable, rather than attach a demonic name or entity to it. 

 

I admit it! 

But I think I need to finally come clean and admit that I have issues believing in the concept. Oh I know what some of you will use to argue already. Light can’t exist without darkness. A belief in angels requires a belief in demons. Those arguments sound nice, but they don’t settle anything for me, and to be fair, I have the same issues wrapping my head around angels sometimes too, with their names and their color coded wings. For a while last year I was involved in a few phone conversations with a popular television production company about the possibility of being involved in a pilot about angels and investigating whether or not they really existed. I’m not sure where the project ended up going, but many of the personalities they were interested in just had a knowing that angels existed, and that’s not what they were looking for. They wanted someone who needed the proof. It was exciting to be approached, but I’m not sure the topic of angels would have been enough to keep me focused or serious for a whole series. One thing is for sure, though. I’d have to see some evidence before I could confidently say I believed in angels. Now ask me if I believe in spirit guides. (Well… I can’t wait all night for you to ask, but just know the answer is YES. My regular readers already knew this.)

Oh I believe in evil, in a sense that there are bad people, good people, and a whole spectrum of people in between. Those same people may just end up being either the innocent ghost or the trouble-making poltergeist in a haunted house. Many people believe, as I do, that we’re placed here on earth, maybe more than once, to learn lessons and allow our souls to grow spiritually. Perhaps these “bad people” are here to be a part of those lessons, and maybe their struggle with being bad has something to do with their own lesson. But believing in an inhuman demonic entity, or the devil himself, is something that I admittedly struggle to take seriously. Some popular paranormal television shows haven’t helped my opinion, either. Often those suddenly possessed investigators or home owners seem to look like they’re simply starving for attention, and oh look, there just happens to be a camera rolling! The spotlight is on me! I don’t mean to be flip, but that’s how it appears. I have absolutely no doubt that spirit can make use of our energy, or manipulate the world around us, and I believe in some cases a person with a gift can be used as a channel for spirit. But sometimes I wonder if people confuse being mentally unstable, or just plain drama, with demon possession. 

 

The book

This post was originally intended to be a book review, but like it or not, I’ve always had a policy about not mentioning a book by name if I don’t have many good things to say about it. Therefore, I’ll be somewhat cryptic in talking about it, and I hope that isn’t seen as poor taste. I’m far from being qualified to be an English teacher, but if I have the urge to take out a red pen to correct grammar and spelling in every chapter of your book, you simply didn’t try very hard to edit it, and so that certainly means I’m going to have a hard time taking you seriously or trusting your qualifications. The book contains story after story of what is supposed to be taken from actual case files of demonic activity, but they just sounded like good fictional storytelling to me… and I’m not big on reading fiction. I simply don’t believe much of those events happened. And people shouldn’t be led to believe that a simple creek, a rap on the wall in response to a question, or an occasional shadow is a reason to convert to Catholicism, get a crucifix for every room, or look for an exorcist.

If you know me, you know that I can’t NOT finish a book, even if I’m not enjoying it. I take pride in finishing the last word and shelving it ceremoniously. But for the first time in years, I considered not finishing this one. I felt a little silly spending the time on it. It took me forever, but I finished it, sighed, and moved on to the next book on my “to be read” shelf.

 

But…

Like some things I’ve brought up in this blog, I might change my mind about all of this in a year or two, or maybe even next week! If I’m suddenly involved in an investigation where I have pea soup spat by someone walking across the ceiling while cursing me in 12 different languages, you’ll be the first to hear from me. Until then, this is where I am with it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out in search of evil. I’ve always preferred pleasant spirits “from the light”, but until I’ve experienced it, I refuse to make it something dramatic to fear.

 

Now it’s your turn to tell me why I’m right or wrong.

I know that many of my readers will disagree with me on this. As I say to my students, “you’ll still like me, right?”

As a counter to probably every opinion I just gave here, you may be interested in checking out the ongoing Hidden Astral World series from Gary Leigh’s Psychic Empaths blog, where he quite literally introduces you to Omen, who he claims is a demonic entity. Gary is a loyal reader of the Big Séance and I have a lot of respect for him, so I hope he chooses to still like me after this post. He’s writing about fascinating stuff. I’m just not sure where I am with it all or how to respond. Go check it out!  

 

You might also like:

Categorizing Hauntings (Big Séance)

Categorizing Hauntings (Big Séance)


The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House

The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House by Steven LaChance (2008), is about a man’s experiences with a haunted house in a small Missouri town during a several year time period in the early 2000s. I was unfamiliar with Steven or the “Screaming House” in Union until this book showed up in an Amazon.com book search. Being from Missouri, I figured it was something I should definitely check out. 

In the beginning, the book focuses a lot on Steven (the author), who is a hardworking single father struggling to make it with three children. After moving from one disappointing rental to another, they manage to find what seems to be a dream home for their family… and this is where the real story starts. I am a person that reads a lot of books that would keep most people up at night, but I don’t usually have any issues. The activity that LaChance describes was enough to keep me from reading before bed. It does tend to be a little heavy on the demonic, and things like oppression and possession, but one thing I liked was that the author was really honest in describing those experiences and his opinions.  

After reaching his limit of paranormal activity, the author finally moved his family out of the haunted home, but activity seemed to follow them, often in the form of nightmares. Fate also seemed to arrange for Steven to meet Helen, the next renter (or victim?) of the home. He felt the need to help her to find answers with the ongoing activity. In doing so, they formed a close relationship, and Steven ended up forming Missouri Paranormal Research (which I believe is now Paranormal Task Force), and the group seemed to spend an exhaustive amount of time investigating in the home. From there, the story focuses on Helen and the extreme experiences she goes through, including signs of possible oppression and possession, threatening both homicide and suicide, and even spending a short amount of time in a mental health facility. Steven seemed to talk himself through the thoughts that I was having while reading. Was she truly being affected somehow by some kind of demonic entity from the house, or was she purely having a psychological breakdown?  

One thing is for sure. You won’t be bored with the twists and turns in the story. 

For Steven’s website, click HERE. For a pictorial tour of the Union Screaming House, click HERE.

 

Author’s bio from the book cover:

Steven LaChance (Missouri) is co-host, with Denice Jones, of the popular Internet radio show Haunted Survivor. He appeared in the documentary film Children of the Grave and his story was featured on The Discovery Channel’s A Haunting. His experiences at the Union screaming house inspired him to form the Missouri Paranormal Research Society.

 

You might also like: 

The Spirits of Ouija: Four Decades of Communication (Big Séance)

The Spirits of Ouija: Four Decades of Communication (Big Séance)

Chip Coffey's "Growing Up Psychic" (Big Séance)

Chip Coffey’s “Growing Up Psychic” (Big Séance)

Vintage: A Ghost Story (for the gay teen in your life) (Big Séance)

Vintage: A Ghost Story (for the gay teen in your life) (Big Séance)

 

 

 


The Conjuring movie review

First of all, if you are a fan of this genre of film, YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE! You WILL see this movie! (Although… some of you may want to see an afternoon matinee so that when you leave the theater you can go to a park, watch the bunny rabbits play, and soak in the last hours of sunlight before you’re home checking rooms and corners.)

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, we can get to the review and the details. Last night I attended an advanced screening of the much anticipated film, The Conjuring, starring Patrick Wilson (Insidious, Evening), Vera Farmiga (A&E’s Bates Motel), Ron Livingston (The Odd Life of Timothy Green), and Lili Taylor (The Haunting, HBO’s Six Feet Under, and TV’s Hemlock Grove). The film is directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious), is rated R, and opens in the United States on July 19, 2013.

There are multiple reasons why I’ve been so excited to see this film, but one of them has to do with the fact that the screenplay for The Conjuring (written by Chad and Carey Hayes) is based on the case files from actual events involving the Perron family in Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1971. These files are from two of America’s earliest, most experienced, and most loved paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Wilson and Farmiga). Outside of the paranormal circle, this married paranormal team will be most remembered for their involvement in the real events of the Amityville haunting that later spawned a book and movie. Many of the people more intimately involved in the field know this duo to be paranormal rock stars.  But the events depicted in this film happened before Amityville and before this rock-star status.

Even though the film is told from the perspective of the Warrens, there is a tormented family in this story as well (as is common in the haunting genre) … the Perrons. Livingston and Taylor take on the roles of real life Roger and Carolyn Perron who struggle to keep their five daughters safe and protected from the horrors going on in their secluded country house (built in 1736) which has an incredibly dark history. Many of the ads, trailers, and TV spots for the movie have been playing up the fact that this case might not be known to you because it was just too disturbing for you to know and was kept quiet for almost 40 years. But now the world is ready … or so the ads say.

It is my understanding that after Andrea Perron, one of the daughters, wrote two volumes about the experiences in 2011 entitled House of Darkness House of Light, it drew more attention to the story. The movie is not based on this book, but as I mentioned earlier, the screenplay is based on the Warrens’ case files. As far as I’ve read, the family and Lorraine (Ed Warren passed away in 2006) seem to approve of the film and are fully behind the events depicted in it. In a YouTube video where Andrea reviews the upcoming film, she states “I expected something entirely different. I expected Hollywood to do what Hollywood does, and yet in some ways this is a very quiet and studious film. You would never know that from the trailers, but that’s their job… to entice an audience. It’s also about the love of a family. It’s also about people who came to help, who felt that this was the most significant and compelling, and dark and disturbing story that they had ever heard in the course of a fifty year career.” She also mentions that the film “truly captured what we endured.”

According to the production notes (a lengthy but fascinating read that can be downloaded from the movie site), Lorraine Warren, who is looking good and in her 80s, is quoted as saying “When I walked inside, I immediately knew it was haunted. There’s a feeling that comes over you, almost like a veil, it draws your energy because the entity needs it in order to manifest; the only way to get that energy is from you. It was really heavy in that house and being on the set brought all that back. It was uncanny. I’m very fond of James. He wanted to get everything right, and I’m excited about the film.” According to the Warrens, this case was the “most intense, compelling, disturbing and significant investigation.”

I found the film incredibly spooky and satisfying, and in a way felt like I was watching something that was released from a time capsule. You really do feel as if you’re watching events from 1971. I don’t have the film production vocabulary to accurately describe it, but the whole thing was shot in a stylistically retro way. Even the design of the ads and the title seem very period. Along the same lines, I’m a huge fan of minimal special effects and computer generated imagery in horror films, and I feel like this had to have been a goal of the production team. Instead, for the most part they used sound, dark corners, squeaky doors, and a really good makeup team… just like the old days. It made the whole thing way more believable, and spookier, in my opinion. The last film from this genre that I saw do this so well was The Woman In Black. But before I move onto the next paragraph, let me be very clear. Like me, you may be fascinated with the history and story, and it is truly a great film, but… This. Film. Is. Scary.

I’m going to avoid busting out spoilers, but the acting in this film was spectacular. Lili Taylor for sure had what must have been some incredibly difficult scenes to film. In the production notes she has some interesting things to say about preparing for her character and blowing her vocal cords. I love Patrick Wilson (who doesn’t?) and Vera Farmiga earned my respect after being hooked on the first season of Bates Motel this year. In such an uncomfortable story, seeing the very loving and beautiful relationship and camaraderie between Ed and Lorraine made me very comfortable when I needed it.

A few interesting bits of information about the production. James Wan decided to film The Conjuring in chronological order. I don’t know why this always makes me happy to hear, but it just makes sense to me. Also, as with many famous films of this type, according to production notes there were apparently several strangely paranormal incidents that happened to various individuals involved in the production of the film, including incidents involving Lorraine Warren and the Perron family members visiting the set.  

Now before you run off to buy your tickets (and remember, it doesn’t open for a few days), let’s stop for a minute and discuss the ads and trailers. Don’t try to pretend like the television spots with the two claps and the sharp tug of the leg in bed didn’t horrify you. And if you think those were the only two scary parts that were thrown away for advertising, think again. I find it interesting that in only one of the three main movie trailers do they even introduce us to perhaps the two main characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The other two are your typical “family in a haunted house” trailers, although in the third trailer they made an interesting decision to add commentary from the real Perron family members. So depending on what trailer you saw, you may have been expecting a slightly different movie. The shorter TV spots have had a mix of all of the trailers and include the Warrens.

Thank you for visiting the Big Séance! Check out the trailers below and make sure to go see The Conjuring! (Leave the bunnies at the park.)

 

 

Related Articles:

The Conjuring and its True Story (rhinews.wordpress.com)

‘The Conjuring’ commercials are freaking me out! (Entertainment Weekly)

 


The Innocents…

There has been a lot of experimenting and evidence analysis lately… maybe too much. I needed a break. And so on a dreary, blustery fall day like today (which is my favorite, by the way)… a day that required me to put on the season’s first hoodie… what better time is there to grab a blanket, light a candle, and watch an old black and white psychological horror movie? You may remember that this was the first movie on my list of Movies I Plan On Checking Out This Fall.

I’m not sure this 1961 British film perfectly fits into that psychological horror category. It also lacks the blood and gore of what I consider a “horror” film. I decided not to include the official trailer for the movie in this post, though it is certainly available on YouTube, because its style just doesn’t seem to match the classy movie that I just watched.

 

 

The movie begins with a black screen and a creepy melody, “O Willow Waly”, which is sung in a cappella by a young child. Perfect, right?! I just knew I was going to love it. Much of the film is shot in beautiful outdoor garden-like settings, and the rest of the movie takes place in a beautiful large country estate (filmed on location at the Sheffield Park House in East Sussex, England). It really is beautiful to see on screen. And then, of course later, that same beauty creates the good old-fashioned spookiness that I love in a horror movie. No special effects needed.

 

 

From Wikipedia, here’s a bit about the story…

Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) applies for a job as a governess. It is to be her first position, but the wealthy bachelor interviewing her (Michael Redgrave) is unconcerned with her lack of experience. He values his freedom to travel and socialise and unabashedly confesses that he has “no room, mentally or emotionally” for his niece and nephew, who were orphaned and left in his care as infants, and whom he keeps at Bly, his country estate. The previous governess, Miss Jessel, died suddenly less than a year ago. All he cares about is that Miss Giddens accept full responsibility for the children, never troubling him with whatever problems may arise.

 

Miss Giddens eventually discovers that the two children are being possessed by the spirits of the previous governess and the uncle’s former valet.

Because the two children are supposedly possessed by spirits who were in love, this created some weirdness for me. In the movie there is talk of how these two spirits (while alive) would engage in sexual activity in clear view of the children. So now when the children act strangely or say in appropriate things, Miss Giddens begins to wonder just what the children know or what they saw before she took over as governess. At times, the young boy seems to be taken over by the spirit of the valet, and there is even an uncomfortable moment where he kisses his governess passionately. Of course, this weirdness is mild since the movie is over fifty years old… but I just thought I’d give you a heads up.

 

 

Below are two clips. The first clip is a scene that I think captures the style of most of the movie. I think it is beautifully shot. It’s also the video I watched that made me realize I needed to see the film. I quickly ordered it on DVD. The second clip is possibly the creepiest scene from the film.

Enjoy!

 

Unfortunately, the first video no longer exists on YouTube. 

 

 

 

 


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