WASHINGTON, October 30, 2014 — Halloween is that happy time of year when costumed children go door to door in search of that perfect confection; when the young are playfully introduced to ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies and the prince of darkness himself, the Devil. It seems the holiday is designed to soften a youngster’s introduction to the horrors of this world, real or imagined.
There are others, however, who insist you remain good and scared of the diabolical elementals lurking at the murky fringes of our imagination.
“One of my most harrowing supernatural investigations began on Halloween, 1991,” writes 16-year NYPD veteran detective Ralph Sarchie in his book, Beware the Night: a New York City Cop Investigates the Supernatural.
Sarchie and his partner were summoned to the Villanova family home in upscale Westchester, New York by a priest serving as an exorcist for a Catholic diocese. Sarchie’s account of creepy noises emanating from a basement, books tossed off shelves by some unseen agency, and demonic possession, was later made into a Hollywood horror film.
Back in 2010, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, organized a two-day “closed-door” conference in Baltimore in answer to overwhelming “requests from people who fear they are possessed by the Devil,” the New York Times reported.
Bishop Paprocki told the Catholic News Service that no more than five or six priests were properly trained to perform the ancient rite of exorcism in the United States.
“There is this small group of priests who say they get requests from all over the continental U.S.,” Bishop Paprocki said. “Actually, each diocese should have its own resource [exorcist]. It shouldn’t be that this burden should be placed on a priest when his responsibility is for his own diocese.”
Last June, Pope Francis gave his blessing to a decree by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy recognizing the International Association of Exorcists (IAE), comprised of some 300 priests from 30 nations, as an independent arm of the Catholic Church.
In an interview with the Catholic News Service, Father Gabriele Amorth, the exorcist of the Catholic Archdiocese of Rome and founder of the IAE, told a remarkable story about the time a demon-possessed girl began screaming in a “cavernous voice” during a weekly general audience given by the late Pope John Paul II. According to Father Amorth, the girl’s strength was “superhuman.”
Amorth said the Pope performed the rite of “exorcism on the girl the previous day” but failed to expel the demon. When Amorth and a fellow priest performed a follow-up exorcism, “the demon mocked the Pope, saying, ‘Not even your [church] head can send me away,’” said Amorth.
Just four days ahead of Halloween, the International Association of Exorcists met in Rome. Dr. Valter Cascioli, a psychiatrist and spokesmen for the IAE, told Vatican Radio that a growing interest in the occult and Satanism is causing “an extraordinary increase in demonic activity… the battle against evil and the devil increasingly is becoming an emergency.”
Former Jesuit priest and author Malachi Martin in his book Hostage to the Devil: the Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans, wrote, “No one lives far from some geographical area where some form of ritualistic Satanism is practiced. Ritualistic Satanism and its inevitable consequences, demonic possession, are now part and parcel of the atmosphere of life in America… Our cultural desolation – a kind of agony of aimlessness coupled with a dominant self-interest – is documented for us in the disintegration of our families. In the breakup of our educational system. In the disappearance of publicly accepted norms of decency in language, dress, and behavior. In the lives of our youth, everywhere deformed by stunning violence and sudden death; by suicide; by fear.”
As the character Verbal Kint in the film The Usual Suspects famously said, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”