Ghosts: A Word About Possession

I read a story today, a first hand account, which the contributor described as a daemonic presence. I wasn’t so sure:  it appeared to actually be a ghost or poltergeist. Scary, yes.   But  she was able to dispatch it with relative ease.  Usually such cases are complicated, and take a long time to sort.  It was with her only a couple of months, did no actual harm, and was got rid of simply with a blessed cross and being told to leave. Daemonic cases are much darker.  And they take a very long time and highly trained, specialized experts to dispel.

I’m clergy, and also worked in hospital chaplaincy for many years.  I’ve only once (thankfully not more!) encountered something I thought might well be a case of daemonic possession.

One day, I was called to the hospital ER. The Catholic priest was already present.  A patient had been brought in on a mental health hold: that is, he was considered “a danger to himself or others” and would be held at the hospital until a bed at a mental health facility bed became available.   These holds are quite routine, as a rule.  But this case was different.

In the room, three large male nurses were struggling to get the patient (who was scrawny and small) back into three-point restraints, out of which he had inexplicably slipped.  Once he was secured, I joined the priest and the patient in the room.

This patient was very, very strange. Not at all like any mental hold patient I’d ever encountered.  What was different about him?

  1. As described, his unusual physical strength
  2. His eyes.  I have never before (and hope never again) to see what so looked like “dead” eyes.  They were devoid of expression or humanity.  In clinical work we look for “affect,” or nonverbal signals that can be observed about a patient. This man had the strangest, scariest affect I’ve encountered before or since.
  3. The patient spoke in several languages (not gibberish: both the priest and I were well-educated and recognized Hebrew, Latin and Greek, among others).
  4. It felt cold around the patient, as it does around ghosts.  We spoke with him briefly. I left.  Frankly, I felt fortunate that something didn’t follow me out the door.
  5. It was an extremely uncanny experience for both me (an Episcopal priest) and for my Catholic colleague.

We both concluded this was no ordinary case of mental distress, but something paranormal, dark, extremely creepy, possibly daemonic – and convincing.  Maybe “you had to be there” – but trust me on this.

While many cases of possession have been debunked, there are also many that have not. William Friedkin, who directed The Exorcist, has recently filmed a real exorcist at work and he evidently found the footage quite compelling.  Here’s a link to more information about his experience:

For those hungry for more ghost stories, made-up as well as real, check out my ghost books:

death be not loud coverfleeceabout ghosts cover

13 thoughts on “Ghosts: A Word About Possession

    • Thanks for asking – no, It was not a case of PCP or drugs – it was far stranger than that. Hard to express. The linguistic ability displayed was quite – to say the least – unusual … all of us present (docs, nurses, chaplains) were clinically trained, with years of experience – but no one could explain what took place with this patient. Maybe “you had to be there.” 🙂
      Thanks again for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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