ouija_board

Sunhill Asylum, November 14, 1963

Another knock comes at the door. Maria looks up from her notes and says:

‘Come in!’

The secretary enters:

‘I’m sorry to bother you again doctor Torris, but there’s a priest to see you.’

‘If its father Doughty, tell him I’m busy.’

‘No, it’s not him. It’s a stranger.’

‘First Mrs. Tate – and now a priest. I suppose he doesn’t have an appointment either.’

‘No. I said you were busy, but he insists on seeing you. He says it’s urgent.’

‘I see. Well you’d better send him in…’

The priest, a tall man in his late sixties, is shown into the room. He has piercing blue eyes with a weathered elfin face. He removes his hat and smiles:

‘Sorry to barge in on you like this. My name is Father Michael. I’ve come about Jack Vallis… Doctor Hardy sent me.’

Maria stands in surprise:

‘Hardy sent you?’

‘Yes, god rest his soul. I received a letter from his solicitor this morning.’

‘That’s a bit quick, isn’t it? Hardy hasn’t been dead twenty four hours.’

‘Indeed. But Hardy must have planned it this way.’

‘You mean his suicide?’

‘Yes. His letter was most specific. I was to come here upon this date, and tell you all about it.’

‘All about what?’

‘The exorcism.’

‘What exorcism?’

‘Didn’t you know? I was summoned here to exorcise Jack Vallis.’

‘Summoned? When?’

‘Oh, well let me see… it must have been six years ago now.’

‘Did Hardy authorise this Exorcism?’

‘Oh no, no, you misunderstand. Hardy knew nothing about it – not until much later. No indeed, the exorcism was ordered by a doctor Pontius.’

‘Pontius? Are you sure?’

‘Yes quite sure. Myself and six other priests were ordered by the Vatican.’

‘But Pontius is a clinical psychologist – an avowed atheist. He would never request an exorcism. It doesn’t make any sense.’

‘Materialism is always powerless when dealing with the facts of pneumatology. Indeed, there are some insanities which science cannot cure, but which faith may relieve entirely. Even in the hopeless cases, faith often helps.’

‘And what about Jack Vallis? Was he a hopeless case?’

‘Ah yes. A most hopeless case indeed. Needless to say, the exorcism failed entirely.’

‘Er, Father Michael, perhaps it would be better if we talked outside. Shall we walk the grounds? I could do with a breath of fresh air…’

‘Yes. That’s a very good idea. It’s fine morning and I need the exercise. Besides, if I’m honest, I dislike the atmosphere in this place. It makes me sick and weak at the knees.

*     *     *     *

They tread a cinder path that winds about the lawns, passing beneath a chestnut tree where two squirrels leap amid the barren boughs. The air is sharp and the grass white with hoarfrost. The priest shakes his head and says:

‘It was a long and difficult ordeal.’

‘In what way?’

‘There were many disturbances.’

‘Disturbances?’

‘You’re a religious woman. I’m sure you understand. Disturbances. We recorded them on film.’

‘Poltergeist?’

‘Yes I believe so. But we must draw a distinction between the activity of the PK-poltergeist, and the possession-poltergeist.

‘Which is?’

‘The PK-poltergeist is focused primarily on adolescents – usually young girls. The entity is often an extension of the individual’s psyche. As such it shows little intelligence or purpose. It is more like a misdirected energy, if you like. But the possession-poltergeist is an independent entity with a supernatural intelligence, that invades the body of its human host.’

‘You are familiar with Jack’s case history?’

‘Yes. I know all about it.’

‘What about his miracles father?’

‘And how do you know about them?’

‘Why? Am I not supposed to know?’

‘That was long ago. Besides, none of his so called miracles were recognised by the church.’

‘Why not?’

‘The medical evidence was destroyed. In the end all we had to go on was hearsay.’

I spoke to a woman only this morning who swears by them.’

‘Who?

‘A Mrs. Tate. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.’

‘I see. Well all that is water under the bridge now.’

‘But Jack Vallis effected a total cure by the laying on of hands. She was engulfed by a healing light. She called it The Light Stream. And she has the X-Rays to prove it.’

‘What X-Rays? Unless they can be corroborated by her radiographer, you have absolutely nothing to go on.’

‘I get the distinct impression that you’re trying to bury the evidence. Why?’

‘Because whatever transcendent force was responsible, it didn’t come from God.’

‘But how do you know?’

‘Think about it for a moment. Vallis is a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers a host of sexual aberrations and pathologies: a transvestic fetishist who lives in a world of dreams. Reality has no value to him. He could quite happily satisfy himself with a girdle or a woman’s shoe; the woman herself is secondary, superfluous – disturbing even. How do you reconcile that with The Light Stream? Do you think God would choose a sexual deviant as His chosen instrument?’

‘Is that what bothers you the most? The fact that God chose someone like Vallis over a Catholic priest?’

‘No, no, no Maria. You’ve got this all wrong. Vallis is a conduit for demonic powers. He has confessed so himself.’

‘What use is a confession when obtained under duress?’

‘I don’t know what you mean. And I don’t like the insinuation.’

‘If I was forced to undergo countless sessions of E.C.T. against my will, I too would confess to anything.’

‘I was not responsible for his treatment – or whatever ghastly things Doctor Pontius did. But I know possession when I see it.’

‘Jack’s so called possession might be nothing more than a simple case of hysteria. Whatever sexual aberrations Vallis had, I think Pontius made them worse, not better.’

Hysteria. That’s the usual excuse given by medical materialists.’

‘I can assure you Father Michael, I’m not one of those.’

‘Indeed. But are you aware of Jack’s other supernatural abilities? Some might call them gifts.’

‘Yes. He contradicts all the laws of physics: precognition; mediumship; telekinesis. And now doctor Pontius wants to lobotomise him.’

‘I see. Well, I’m sorry. That’s most unfortunate.’

‘You must help me. We have to save Jack.’

‘Save him? Oh no. These things are signs of demonic infestation.’

‘That’s ridiculous.’

‘Not at all. Besides, Jack knows that he’s possessed.’

They stop at the pond where two swans perch on the ice like sugar birds on a wedding cake. Maria thinks for a moment then says:

‘I have no doubt that Jack believes he is possessed. But this belief is a hysterical reaction to what is essentially PK activity. Jack believes he is possessed, because, for some reason, his rational mind can no longer accept his psycho-kinetic powers. Pontius has made Jack believe that PSI is evil and forbidden. So Jack’s subconscious has created a demonic numen: an archetype generated by compartmentalisation. Now Jack believes the Cyclops is responsible for his powers.’

‘Ah yes, the Cyclops.’

‘You have read Jack’s journal?’

‘Of course. And everything the Cyclops says is simply New Age spiritualism masquerading as Christianity. Highly dangerous. And very misleading.’

‘But the Cyclops is really a projection of Jack’s twin sister. She was a parasitic twin – a Cyclopean Endocyma – cut from his abdomen when he was seven.’

‘Yes, I am familiar with his medical history. But all this is quite beyond psychiatry: it belongs to the Supernatural order. Jack Vallis is under the control of an occult power – an entity which you are unable to define or detect by medical means; this power speaks through his mouth, independently of his will. Having implored the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I remain convinced that his extraordinary state can only be attributed to possession. Jack Vallis has revealed the inmost secrets of my heart, and told the story of my life, giving precise details that are known only to God and myself. And I have witnessed the same with other persons who are possessed by demons. To be perfectly honest, I’m sick to the back teeth of Freud. He has an excuse for everything. I know all about his theory of emotionally conditioned complexes; the ego-complex, the unconscious, phantasies, fixations, resistances, symbolism, introversions, projections transference and regressive transference, not to mention the libido. God save us.’

‘Well I’m a Jungian, not a Freudian.’

‘And you still think that provides you with all the necessary tools for examination of the human soul? You think this case is reducible to elements brought about by the psychoanalytic method? Hysterical projection? A reasonable hypothesis doctor, but one that is not born out by the evidence. There are no cases of hysterics with PSI abilities. Telekinetic sensitivity in hysterics does not exist. Hysterics generally remain completely ambivalent to their plight; whereas the demoniac is completely horrified. The mental constellation of the hysteric is always projected inward; their entire neurosis is orientated towards self affliction. Their only desire is to punish themselves. Whereas the demoniac is violent towards others, even to the point of abject cruelty, and in some cases, murder.’[i]

‘But violent impulses are also symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.’

‘Paranoid schizophrenics do not speak in tongues.’

‘Of course they do. They utter nonsense all the time.’

‘What Jack said wasn’t nonsense: it was a grammatically perfect lexicon from the ancient world, consisting of several languages, none of which are spoken today. The tape recordings were studied by six scholars – all of whom were familiar with ancient Greek, Aramaic, Latin and Early French. They only confirmed what I already knew: that this was a genuine case of demonic possession.’

‘But feasibly, had one of these scholars suffered a psychotic break, they too would have spoken in tongues from the ancient world.’

‘Yes, but Vallis is no scholar: he spent most of his youth in Borstal.’

‘I believe he’s an autistic savant.’

‘Savants don’t levitate or crawl upon the ceiling.’

‘You witnessed these things?’

‘Myself and several other priests. It was hard for us all. The demon’s aim is to seduce you, either by an irresistible display of power, or by tempting you to despair. It is vital never to give in to these blandishments and threats. For even the most virtuous can succumb to the wiles of the Devil. The fact is, demonic intelligence far exceeds any human capacity. It is only through the power of Christ that we can overcome these creatures.’

They start to walk again.

‘What kind of creatures?’ asks Maria.

‘Until a demon reveals itself, you never know what kind of entity you are dealing with. I have seen many in my time. Some are mere shadow figures, without any substance at all. They manifest as a black cloud, often in the shape of a tall man or shaggy ape. Others are fallen angels, the most fearful of which are the Jinn. Sometimes corporeal, but more often ghostly, mutable at will, and assuming diverse forms, human, beast, or chimera. The satyr is one example.’

‘Have you seen a satyr?’

‘Yes, once, when exorcising a peasant girl in Spain. Satyrs are the most hideous creatures, and certainly nothing like the benevolent depictions by Rubens and Cabanel. I knew a priest who went mad after seeing one. He suffered a complete mental breakdown. He now resides at an asylum for the criminally insane. But that satyr is nothing compared to the entity inside Jack Vallis.’

‘Who was the exorcist? You?’

‘No. The exorcism was performed by a Benedictine.’

‘What was his name?’

‘He never gave his name.’

‘Is that not odd?’

‘Not really. Not in these situations. Strangers often meet at Exorcisms. One simply accepts that men of God have been brought together for one purpose: to deliver a soul from the clutches of the Devil. Names are irrelevant.’

‘How I might contact this Benedictine?’

‘I have no idea. He was American. And he was obviously familiar with Jack from an early age. Jack referred to him as his “Spiritual Advisor”. They talked of the Old World as if it were a real place – as if they knew each other there. Jack kept asking him about old acquaintances; people dead and gone. His mother; his father; his family, etcetera.’

‘What family? Jack doesn’t have a family.’

‘Perhaps it was a euphemism. I mean, the priesthood is my family. Or perhaps his Spiritual Advisor was trying to humour him. I don’t know.’

‘I see. And how did you proceed?’

‘Let me sit down a moment; I will tell you all about it…’

They sit on a bench overlooking the gardens. The priest pauses for a moment and his expression turns grave and austere:

‘We began with a preliminary examination – a clinical assessment in the presence of doctors – to rule out any medical cause. When we first examined Jack, his body was covered in welts, some of which formed distinct Latin words: Deformis [deformed]; tullianum [dungeon]; secretus [hidden]. Of course, it is the duty of any exorcist to leave the medical aspects of a case to qualified physicians. But as you can imagine, the doctors had no explanation. However, there was a certain sceptic amongst them – a doctor Hulme – who asserted that Jack had made the welts himself, carving the letters with a hot wire. But when we turned Jack over and examined his back, we found the words: O fallax natura Deum [deceiving are the Gods]. The text was written between the shoulder blades, each letter an individual welt in a cursive script. Well, it was physically impossible for Jack to have done that to himself, even if he were double jointed. When Hulme saw that, he left us to our own devices. For the next seven days, we followed the Rituale Romanum, but it had little effect. Rather, the demons seemed to enjoy it.’

‘Demons. There was more than one?’

‘Yes, I believe there were at least seven – possibly many more. The Satanic personality often conceives itself as multiple. The Magdalene is one example. So is the legion case of the New Testament. But an exorcist is only permitted to target a single entity per day. We continued for six days, repeating the ritual, day and night. It was physically and mentally exhausting. After the sixth day, we decided to leave and gather our strength. We returned again at dawn, determined to rout the enemy from his hiding place. Then on the seventh hour of the seventh day, Jack began to levitate, suffering crippling spasms as he was thrown about the room. During which time he uttered the most obscene language; his voice was not his own, rather it sounded more like a shrieking owl. When I asked the demon to reveal his name, Jack broke from his manacles and came at me, snarling like a rabid dog. He pinned me to the floor with such force that I couldn’t move an inch. It felt as if a mountain of earth he been thrown upon me. He began to throttle me. The other priests tried pull him off, but they were no match for his demonic strength; one was thrown to the ceiling – where he remained for several seconds – before dropping like a stone and breaking his back on the bedstead; another flew against the door with such force that he cracked six ribs. Eventually Jack was removed and shackled to the chair. The exorcist began again, only this time he deviated from the script. He threw a phial of holy water with the words: “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Hujus aquæ tactus depellit dæmonis actus.” [In the name of the Father, and the Son, and The Holy Ghost. The contact of this water dispels the wiles of the devil.] But the demon just laughed and said: “Cooperante diabolo.” [Only with assistance of the devil]. Do you understand what that implies?’

‘That you were powerless?’

‘Yes indeed. But it also implies something else. Something far more profound.’

‘What?’

‘That we could not dispel the Devil in the name of God without the Devil’s approval. In other words, God and the Devil were working together. As if God and the Devil were one and same power.’

‘That’s blasphemy.’

‘Yes. Blasphemy. And of course, I refused to believe it. But the fact of the matter remains: we were unable to exorcise Jack Vallis.’

‘And what of Jill, his alter ego?’

‘Is that what you call her? She too insists that she cannot be cured without the Devil’s approval. For she believes like Job, that God asked Satan to torment her.’

‘Torment her? How?’

‘Is it not obvious? By imprisoning her in the body of a man.’

‘You make it sound like Jack is possessed by Jill.’

‘I myself have mixed feelings about it. I am uncertain as to who, or exactly what, Jill is. Psychologically speaking, she is just a secondary personality. I know that you treat secondary personalities as real; and treatment often tries to reintegrate the secondary personality. But which is the secondary personality? Jack or Jill?’

‘Hard to say. Jack always asserts that he is Jill; and Jill asserts she is not Jack. But paradoxically, Jack is always the one in control. So one would assume that Jill is the secondary personality.’

‘Yes. But if Jill is a secondary personality, and one which is controlled by a Satanic spirit, then Jill is surely a demon. A pity the demon never gave its name.’

‘I am sorry Father Michael, but I am most uncomfortable with your appraisal. You are superimposing a demonic numen on the transsexual condition. Jill feels possessed because her body is polluted by a darkness. The darkness of something other than herself. We might as well call this demon Testosterone. Would you not identify with The Fallen in her condition? Would you not feel cast out from heaven? Cast out of yourself?’

‘Your weren’t at the exorcism doctor. You have no idea of what you’re dealing with.’

‘Demon or dissociation; psychiatrist or priest – we both treat the human soul.’

‘Agreed. But how can you equate possession with the transsexual condition? It is quite beyond me.’

‘That’s my whole point. Do you understand the transsexual condition? Can you even imagine it? Surely it must be the most terrible condition of all. For if you are trapped in the body of the wrong sex, then you are dwelling in a body which is not your own. You are alien to yourself. And if, like Jack, you appear as a man, yet have a feminine soul that you can never express, then you are ostensibly possessed by something other than what you appear to be. Do you not see?’

‘Demons seduce the weak-minded and the curious; they tempt us in a thousand different ways. Their aim is to do all the injury they can. That’s why Jack Vallis went mad; and that’s why he has been isolated all his life.’

‘Isolated? Well that’s hardly surprising is it? What is the point of having friends if they don’t know who you are? What’s the point of a social life? Of a career? I can’t see any. None at all. It is nothing less than soul obliteration. But to talk of demonic possession. That’s absurd.’

‘As I said, you weren’t at the exorcism, so you wouldn’t know.’

‘If Jack is Jill, it is useless trying to exorcise Jill, whether you believe she is a demon or a pathological condition. Because if you exorcise Jill, you kill Jack. Because Jack and Jill are ostensibly one and the same person.’

‘Let us agree to differ. I have fulfilled my duty. I have done as Hardy asked. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.’

He rises to go but Maria grabs his arm:

‘Wait. What would you say, if I told you that I spoke with doctor Hardy – this morning – on the telephone.’

He sits back down and glowers:

‘Then I would tell you to tread very carefully.’

‘But you wouldn’t think I was mad?’

‘That all depends. How do you know it was Hardy? It might have been an imposter.’

‘Imposter? Oh no, it was Hardy all right. I recognised his voice. He called from Paris. I thought he was on holiday. I had no idea he was dead. It shook me up at bit. I still can’t quite believe it.’

‘Have you experienced anything like this before?’

‘No.’

‘Are you clairaudient or psychic in any way?’

‘No. At least, not as far as I know.’

‘What did Hardy want?’

‘He mentioned Cyclops. Something about the basement.’

‘If I were you, I’d leave this place. It’s not safe for you here.’

‘And desert my patients? No, I can’t leave. I must save Jack Vallis.’

‘Some people are beyond saving Maria. There are forces at play. Forces which you cannot possibly comprehend.’

‘Tell me.’

‘I am not permitted to tell you.’

‘Something strange is happening. I feel swept away. More than a little lost. Ever since meeting Jack, my whole world has turned upside down.’

‘Maria. This is very important. I want you to answer me honestly. Have you ever dabbled in the Occult?’

‘No Father. Never. I’m a devout Catholic. But I always knew the spirit world was real, even as a child.’

‘And how is that?’

‘My late aunt was a Spiritualist. She had a rambling old villa in the south of France. I used to stay there during the summer holidays. She held seances with her friends. Lonely old women with nothing better to do, mostly. Although there was one seance I remember distinctly.’

‘You attended the circle?’

‘No. I wasn’t allowed. I always got bundled off to bed before they started. But sometimes I’d watch from the stairs. Just out of childish curiosity, you understand. To be honest, I found it all – well, rather entertaining.’

‘Naturally. And what happened?’

‘There were the usual rappings and messages from departed husbands. I love you. Forgive me. I am waiting for you. I was familiar with messages of filial attraction – and even though I didn’t believe them, I knew they gave comfort to grieving widows. But on this particular night, there were manifestations: apparitions that were beyond the hand of human fraud or misdirection. I saw spectres in different shapes; one was a cloven hoof which kicked a candlestick across the floor; another was a disembodied flame that floated above the medium’s head.’

‘These sort of things are easy to fake. Forgive me, I do not mean to insult the memory of your aunt. But she was probably fooled, just like you.’

‘No. It wasn’t a trick.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because I saw Pogel – that’s the dog I had when I was six. He got run over by a truck. And Pogel’s ghost was running round the room, floating in mid air.’

‘Extraordinary.’

‘Yes. I think Pogel came to warn me.’

‘Warn you? Of what?’

‘The moment Pogel vanished, a cold blast swept through the house. Then ectoplasm started pouring from the medium’s mouth. I saw a ghost – a real ghost – manifest beside her. At first it was just a wispy white figure – a faceless spectre that moved like mist. But then little by little it began to coalesce. It was frightening. Very frightening.’

‘Was it human?’

‘No father…’

‘Then what was it like?’

‘It had horns. Enormous horns.’

The priest crosses himself:

‘What happened?’

‘It passed through the wall, floated up the stairs and went right through me. I screamed and blacked out. I don’t remember anything after that. The doctor was called but he couldn’t rouse me. I was taken to hospital in Toulouse. I awoke three days later. The diagnosis was hysteria.’

‘ The seance is a gateway for evil spirits. It is madness to summon ghosts from beyond. You might as well open up your house to every criminal in Broadmoor. Except inviting spirits into your home is infinitely more dangerous. People believe that the spirits summoned in seance are human souls, who once lived upon the earth. But no Maria, they are not. The psychical phenomena in seance are produced by malign manifestations of diabolic force.’

‘Yes father.’

‘What else do you remember about this entity?’

‘Nothing. Although I sometimes dream about it.’

‘What do you dream?’

‘I can’t remember. I just know that when I awake, I have been talking with it. And for some reason, it no longer frightens me.’

‘Have you told anyone else about this?’

‘Never.’

‘Then I advise you to keep silent.’

‘But what should I do father. I mean, about doctor Hardy.’

‘If it was Hardy.’

‘I know it was. I think he feels guilty for what happened to Jack.’

‘Hardy planned his suicide, just as he planned this meeting between us. It is hard to know what he wants, or what he was involved with. Clearly Jack Vallis is at the root of it. Perhaps Hardy was trying to warn you.’

‘Hardy is not at peace. He cannot rest without my help.’

‘Then what do you suppose he wants?’

‘I’m not sure. But it’s something to do with the basement.’

‘I would stay clear of that place.’

‘But why father? What’s down there?’

‘Who knows? But why go searching for trouble?’

‘You think I should ignore Hardy? I can’t. It wouldn’t be right. Would it?’

‘Why are you asking me? You’ve already decided what you’re going to do. Haven’t you?’

‘Yes father. I suppose I have.’

‘You want to save Jack Vallis.’

‘Yes father.’

‘Then I shall pray for you.’

And with that, father Michael pats her hand and walks off toward the gate.

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2018

i. Demonic Possession and Parapsychology. D. Scott Rogo. Parapsychology Review, November-December, 1974.