Originally posted October 31, 2009 at Gaia.com
In 1999, I encountered a case of possession by a demon. This was probably the strangest and worst thing that has ever happened to me, and I hope nothing like this ever comes into my life again. For reasons that will become clear to you, I am not able to contact the person who was possessed and ask permission to include her story here, but it needs telling, so I’m telling it anyway. I’ll refer to her as Jeanne.
It started innocently, with a referral from a Holographic Repatterning practitioner of my acquaintance. She had come to the conclusion that this patient needed acupuncture and that treatment with me would be the most likely thing to get her out of the awful situation she was in.
The situation, as the patient immediately informed me, was that her life and health were being destroyed by an entity which was possessing her. I had never before (and fortunately never since) encountered possession as a patient’s main complaint. There was plenty else; she had had two strokes and was partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair, barely able to walk without falling and further injuring herself. The strokes had occurred as a result of the possession, she told me. In addition, she slept poorly, waking up screaming, with the entity tossing her about her bed. The screaming had gotten her into trouble at the apartment complex where she lived; she had even lined the walls and ceiling of a closet with foam panels so that she could sleep in a soundproofed area. Attempts at exorcism had done no good. She could not work or drive, and she had been unable to get Social Security disability payments as yet, so she had severe financial problems. Basically, her life was a complete mess, and she was miserable.
I didn’t know if I could treat possession, but I was sure I could treat stroke sequelae, so I took this woman on as a patient. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really believe that she was possessed, and I was still living in a happy, rosy spiritual reality where I thought I could protect myself from anything negative that might come along.
I was completely, utterly, tragically wrong.
I did scalp acupuncture for the paralysis, and it appeared that we were making some progress. I found Jeanne to be intelligent and interesting, and I didn’t feel anything negative about working with her. I did notice that she had a strong and unusual scent, rather like old and much-used gym shoes. That should have tipped me off, but I wasn’t sufficiently familiar with these matters to understand that the smell was significant.
Jeanne was getting rides to my office from a retired gentleman who had for some reason volunteered to help her out. I still don’t know why he was doing this; it was not that they had any kind of long-standing friendship. I didn’t pry into their arrangement. He was also paying for her treatment, and I accepted a greatly reduced price. It turned out that while some people helped Jeanne for a while, eventually they became annoyed with her and stopped, and this man followed that pattern. Jeanne thought that it made sense, that the entity was influencing them against her, or that they felt the unpleasantness of being around it and knew subconsciously that they needed to get away.
Probably what got me into trouble was the Reiki and other energy work. I was intimately connecting to Jeanne’s field over and over, and that meant I was connecting to the thing that was menacing and overshadowing her. I was working under the assumption that the entity was real, but I believed, more or less, that it was a creation of the patient’s own, not a separate force or being with its own agenda. So I didn’t understand or believe that there was anything I should be afraid of. I could not consciously perceive anyone or anything in the room besides Jeanne and me. Unfortunately, that only says that my perceptions were not particularly acute.
At one point, I took Jeanne to the Santuario de Chimayó, a famous church north of Santa Fe where miraculous healings have occurred over the centuries. Whether one gets an immediate miracle or not, I knew from experience, it’s a place where the energy is tremendous and peaceful and it’s hard not to feel better in some way. I actually knew someone who had experienced a miraculous healing there, and I thought it couldn’t hurt to try.
The trip there was surreal. I had certainly driven there before, but I couldn’t find the sign for the turnoff to go through the countryside to the village and church. I knew its general location, and I kept driving up and down the road in that area with both of us looking for it, and we just couldn’t see it. I finally stopped at a nearby casino and asked someone. The sign was right where it should have been, right where we had been looking. Jeanne felt that the entity was doing everything it could to prevent us from going there.
But we did get there. Unfortunately, nothing dramatic happened. At least the trip back to Albuquerque went smoothly.
I treated Jeanne over a period of a couple of months or so. Gradually, I began to feel that something was seriously wrong. I felt like I was somehow full of holes, like parts of me were missing. I felt ill in a way that I had never been before. There were no specific symptoms, but I felt something was terribly, terribly wrong. Linda McCarron, a hands-on healer with a great deal of intuitive ability, was treating me at the time, and she was able to help fill in the holes in my field, but I still didn’t feel all right. (Linda didn’t perceive the entity directly either—perhaps I wasn’t so very stupid.)
At that time, my other friend Linda, Jin Shin master Linda Bebee, told me that a Guatemalan healer that she had worked with before was going to be in town. She thought that he might be able to get rid of Jeanne’s problem. It wasn’t clear to me yet that Jeanne’s problem had become my problem too.
The healer, Erick Gonzalez, was going to be meeting clients at a home on the west side of Albuquerque, and I made arrangements to take Jeanne to see him. As soon as we got out of the car, the people at the house made a wide berth around us and kept everyone from getting too close. We didn’t have to tell them that something evil was coming toward them. They could feel it, and more than that, as they explained to me later, they could smell it. That smell was a primary diagnostic symptom. The possession was all too real.
I have to tell you a bit about Erick Gonzalez, what little I know. Recently, in an attempt to prepare for writing this chapter, I tried to find some current contact information for him. In looking him and his organization up on the Web, I could only find a couple of references, and what I did find was rather ominous. A site belonging to a Native American group listed him among people and groups that were pretending to be Indians but were not. They said that Erick was neither Mayan nor an authentic shaman, that he was a complete charlatan. I don’t know if Erick truly has Mayan ancestry, but I can say absolutely that he has a real connection to the spirit world and can accurately see what is going on inside a person. I am uncomfortable about this question and nonplussed about what it means. It’s just one more bit of surreal confusion to add to the rest of this strange story.
Erick was consulting with clients in a small room upstairs. As I had been told to do, I gave him some crystals and some herbs from my office as gifts to help the exchange of energy. I told him that I had been feeling strangely and severely sick lately, in a way that I had never been sick before, and that I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
“Is this just since you’ve been working with…?” he asked, inclining his head in Jeanne’s direction.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Yes,” he repeated. It wasn’t necessary to say anything more.
Here is the strangest part: when the entity realized that Erick was on to it, it suddenly jumped out of me a little and toward him, so that we both could see it. It was like a reptilian mask superimposing itself on my face for just a moment, then fading back inside my body. It was terrifying—but not really surprising. (This was well before I became a rabid fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In later years, whenever I saw the demon faces appear on the vampires in the Buffy stories, I remembered this, and I felt that the show contained a true description of reality. I’ve always wondered if Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and her friends, had actually experienced anything like this.)
I asked Erick what the thing was, and he replied, in an offhand manner, “It’s a demon.” As if demons show up every day, which perhaps they do in his line of work. I never did get really clear whether it was a single entity or a group.
So we were sure the thing was there; it only remained to figure out what to do about it. Erick’s style of healing relied largely on a traditional Mayan fire ceremony (or a fake, made-up Mayan fire ceremony—what do I know?). He explained the long list of supplies I needed to get in order to do the ceremony. It wasn’t going to be easy to come up with the dozens of candles in specific colors, the alcohol, the chocolate—and the hundreds of dollars to cover all that and Erick’s fee. I didn’t feel that I had a choice. I was in huge trouble and I had to do something to get out of it. I felt utterly unable to manage this on my own.
Erick also took a more general look at me, which he called “looking behind my eyes.” He gazed steadily into my eyes, and I could feel him connecting. What he said about my life overall was that I was in difficulty because I wanted to succeed in my practice and to help people, but at the same time I wanted to be left alone. At the time, I was struggling to find enough patients to make a living, and this seemed like a perfect description of my situation.
Erick had a look at Jeanne, as well, and she left feeling hopeful that he could help her. Unfortunately, she did not have the resources that I did to put a ceremony together, so the situation was even more difficult for her.
At that point, I was in a state of absolute terror. I knew that the creature had a strong hold on me, and I felt utterly powerless to do anything about it. I was afraid of not only what it could do to me, but how it could affect my family and friends. I knew that I needed serious help, someone bigger and stronger than that thing. I remember lying in the bathtub praying and begging for someone to save me. It felt like—had been feeling like for a while—my usual spirit friends were far away and behind a foggy veil that I could not quite penetrate. I felt that they were out there, but something seemed to be blocking my contact with them, covering me over. Not surprising, I guess.
My request for the help of someone powerful to take on the entity was answered right away, despite the feeling of blockage. It came in the form of a huge, authentically fire-breathing, classically Chinese-style, gold and red dragon. He was a little frightening, but his wrath was directed at that which would harm me, not at me. This was the first that I had ever had anything close to a real vision of a power animal; I saw only in flashes, but I saw. I felt like things were starting to look up.
I had read that demons are afraid of the very name of Jesus and that calling upon Jesus pushes them away. I had never developed a relationship with Jesus, had never been quite sure what such a relationship ought to be like or how to find him or even exactly who or what he might truly be. Nevertheless, I begged for his help too, feeling embarrassed to be acting like a battlefield convert. That is, I was sincere, but if not for the peril I found myself in, I probably would not have looked for him. I was allowed into the fold anyway. Immediately there was a light streaming from above me, just like the wondrous light I have always experienced in the church at Chimayó. I felt loved and supported, and I was grateful and happy to make this connection.
Nevertheless, the demon was there same as before.
I went out to buy a huge pile of supplies for the fire ceremony. The hardest part was the collection of candles in different prescribed colors; I can’t remember how many colors or how many of each, but it was a lot. Fortunately, we had a candle store at the mall. I also had to have chocolate, alcohol, and an egg or two. I gathered extra offerings of moxa and other herbs from my office that I thought might be worth something to Erick. I was distressed at the large outlay of money on top of everything else, and I didn’t make it clear to my family how much I was spending.
The ceremony was held at the home of one of Erick’s associates, Patricio, on the west side of Albuquerque. Patricio’s place gave the impression of being out in the country, though it was actually only half a mile or so from Central Avenue. He had a large piece of property with a little earthen hut sort of thing, big enough for one or two people, and an open field where a substantial fire could be built. The fire started out pretty much like any fire, but as we added the ceremonial materials, it acted rather odd. The candles, vodka, and chocolate were simply thrown into the fire. Erick added pieces of copal incense that had been specially blessed and were intended to carry the influence of protective spirits. I’ve never seen a fire that incorporated those types of substances, so I don’t know what purely physical effects they might have caused, but I have also never seen a fire take on such bizarre and dramatic shapes. It roared and swirled as if hit by a heavy wind—and it was a calm day. It took on the semblance of the snarling mouths of terrible beasts. I can’t prove that anything supernatural was going on in that fire pit, but it did look that way to me.
An egg was used to help cleanse my body of the entity. Erick ran the egg all around me, the way curanderas do for a limpia. Then he broke it into a jar of water and showed me what he said was the shape of the entity. I wasn’t sure if I saw what he saw, but everything else was dramatic enough to help my belief along.
I had to smoke enough tobacco to make me throw up. Since I don’t smoke and I’m allergic to cigarettes, you’d think that would have been easy, but the thick, crudely rolled cigar didn’t have much effect. I tried my best to do anything I could to expel the evil influence. I could still feel it in my face, as a pain and pressure over my left cheekbone. Erick and I were both becoming concerned that we were not going to succeed.
Finally, somehow, with an effort such as I had never made before, I pushed the demon away and got my life back. The thing seemed to have lost its hold on me. I could still feel something on my cheek, though, and I was worried. Erick said that it was like a scar and that it might take a while to go away, if it ever went away entirely. (It has.) He was confident that I was going to be OK.
At some point during those days I took Jeanne out to have a fire ceremony of her own. Nobody had any better ideas. She had already been through other exorcisms that hadn’t worked. It was obvious that Erick and Patricio were treating her situation with extreme seriousness. Neither one wanted to be alone near her. They made me go into the earthen lodge structure, though, because I was menstruating and therefore ritually unclean and/or more vulnerable. (That was the first time I had ever personally encountered such a restriction.) I felt a little guilty not being able to help, but on the other hand I didn’t really want to be close to the demon either.
The ceremony had little or no effect.
Because Jeanne, disabled and unemployed, had essentially no money, I had bought the candles and other materials for her. When I spoke to Erick later about the outcome, he said that one reason things weren’t going well was that Jeanne wasn’t putting any of her own effort or resources into the deal. I don’t know if he completely understood how little she had to work with, but he was talking about the spiritual as well as material aspects of the situation. He said that she didn’t truly want to get rid of the entity, because it made her feel special. The fact that she was so extraordinarily difficult to help made her all the more special. Erick thought that there would have to be a real change inside Jeanne before anything more could be done for her. I wrote to him after this, saying that he had not been very compassionate toward this woman and that she really had been doing her best, but it seems entirely possible that he was right. After all, a number of other people had also tried to exorcise the thing, and they hadn’t succeeded either.
Much chastened and extremely wary after the fire ceremonies, I made one more attempt to do a treatment for Jeanne. I actually saw the entity leap at me, flashing teeth and claws. I guess it knew how to find me by that time. I felt like it had stuck to me a little bit again, and I didn’t know what to do. When I got home, I threw myself on the ground in my backyard and begged Father Sky and Mother Earth to take this from me. I tried to pour it into the earth and out of me. It worked. As far as I know.
I didn’t dare go anywhere near Jeanne after that. It was a terrible thing, because I had solemnly promised not to abandon her as everyone else had. I completely and utterly broke my promise. That’s just not me. But I had no choice.
Especially because of the uncontrollable screaming at night, Jeanne had expressed a fear that someone would take her away to a mental hospital and stuff her with drugs. As the situation deteriorated, that began to look more and more like a reasonable option to me. In fact, I more or less pushed for it. I told her that, with drugs, at least she would probably sleep. I thought there was also some chance that if she were sedated the entity would get tired of such a boring host and disengage from her. And at least, I pointed out, she would be in a safe place with shelter and food—resources that were by no means assured in her present condition. She was not at all willing to consider this option. I’m not blaming her; I can understand why a mental hospital didn’t sound attractive. I just didn’t see any better possibilities at the time.
The last I ever heard from Jeanne was a frantic phone call at my house one evening late in 1999. She was in a cab on the street outside, and she was begging me for help. I desperately wanted to be able to help, but I knew that there was nothing I could do. Her problems were way too big for me. The cab driver spoke with me. He was thinking of taking her to a hospital, and I told him that that was the best idea I could think of as well.
I don’t know what happened after that. I hope that at least she was taken to a place where she could be physically safe and cared for. I doubt that being heavily drugged could have been any worse than what she was already experiencing. I know that she wanted to die and had considered suicide many times; she had said that she was too much of a “coward” to actually do it. Perhaps death was her best option by that time, and perhaps that is what happened eventually. I suppose that is my hope. I had asked Erick if entities like this left the person upon death, and he had told me that yes, as far as he knew, at death the person would become free of the horror and go on to the spirit world in the normal way.
Jeanne’s case was my greatest failure as a healer—and perhaps as a human being. I can only tell myself that it’s all right for me to fail when people with skills so much greater than mine could not succeed.
Much later, my daughter told me that during the time of the demon’s assault she had been having weird thoughts about me. She had been thinking that I was evil and that she needed to get away from me. She didn’t know what to make of that while it was going on, but of course it made perfect sense when she found out about the possession. If I had not been able to get rid of the thing, it probably would have been best for her to have no contact with me. What a thought.
I don’t know what would have become of me or the people around me if Erick had not been there. It is so very frightening to think of this. How many people are out there in Jeanne’s situation, or mine, without any effective help at all? How many of them are actually in mental hospitals, perhaps abandoned by friends and family? Without anyone, perhaps including themselves, understanding the nature of their predicament?