Again, another thread of events that were running parallel with the overview given in chapter 24.
My eldest daughter awakened in the night screaming in terror so intense she was almost completely unable to describe to us what was frightening her. Soothing and rocking (she was only in kindergarten) calmed her down sufficiently to get a coherent response.
There was, it seems, an alligator outside her window trying to come inside.
After a series of such nightly events, I could no longer brush it off as just a nightmare.
Since my own experiences as a child had affected me so powerfully, I was not inclined to deny the validity of what she had experienced. From somewhere deep inside my soul, an alarm was sounding: “Warning! Warning!” as if an ancient enemy had surfaced once again. There was a difference, however: I was no longer a child, and this was my own child under threat.
It was time to carefully re-examine the Face at the Window events for clues. Dealing with this as a possibly real phenomenon, even if only psychological, seemed to be the right approach. It never occurred to me, of course, that I might fail. My child was threatened as I had been so many years ago. There had been no one to protect me. But from this, at least, I could protect my child.
I pulled out several of my books on metaphysical subjects and found very little that was helpful except in the realms of different kinds of magic. Well, that was an area I didn’t intend to go, but there was nothing else offered in these books. closed them and decided to consult the Pastor, but in an indirect, theoretical way. I most definitely didn’t want to reveal such a problem in my household. And it’s a good thing, too. I was told that such things did not occur in “Christian” families. If Jesus was in your heart, Satan could not enter your house. Period. And, even if he approached, the Bible said that if you “resist the devil, he will flee from you”. The fleeing part was the key element. Any Christian with God and Jesus on his side was a guaranteed winner in any such contest. “If God is with you, who can be against you?”
That wasn’t very helpful, in my opinion.
I knew that the Catholic church had a “rite of exorcism”. While I didn’t want to go that route precisely, thinking that it would be like shooting a mosquito with a cannon, it did occur to me that I could consult Sandra. She was Catholic. Perhaps she would ask her parish priest about any suggestions he might have.
In Sandra’s family, Sicilian and Catholic, such subjects had come up before. In the “old country,” they’d used the 91st Psalm as a Novena. Repeated nine times, Sandra assured me, it worked like a charm.
Well, I wasn’t sure that “working like a charm” was at the root of any such effectiveness. I was already developing a theory about why anything might work at all and it had more to do with suggestibility and belief than anything else. A child felt powerless in the adult world. Perhaps this was at the root of such events as night terrors and other similar, frightening events. The key, then, would be to give my daughter back her feeling of power in the situation. I also knew I needed to give it to myself. By dealing with her demon, I could also deal with my own.
And, if a prayer was the “magic charm,” all the better.
I explained to my daughter that evening.
“I know a special way to make alligators at the window go away.”
“Yes. It’s a special prayer. It’s very powerful.”
I told her that the prayer could keep alligators away, and if they appeared, all she had to do was start to recite it, and they would go away. She was very anxious to learn it by heart.
So, at the age of five, my daughter memorized the 91st Psalm and could recite it letter perfect in just a few days. Every night, when I tucked her into bed, we recited the psalm together, and it made us both feel better. I added my own prayers silently, and stayed with her until she went to sleep. A good Christian mother couldn’t do much more.
For a while, it seemed to work. Easy problem, easy solution, right?
At this point, things took an even stranger turn. Again, my little girl woke us up with her screams, but this time, as we frantically struggled to wakefulness, Larry and I both saw the figure standing in the corner of the bedroom. And we both saw it fade or dissolve into a shimmery sort of atmosphere.
My daughter’s screams reached a crescendo. We snapped out of our shock and flung ourselves out of bed and ran to her see what was going on. Her room was icy cold, even though it was summer. She informed us that the alligator was no longer outside the window.
The alligator had come into the house.
Well, no kidding!
The next day we had planned an outing to a local island for a picnic, a short hop in our bass boat. Mother was taking Grandma shopping, and we had a rare day for the children and didn’t want to waste a minute of it. The island, called “Horse Island,” was reputed to have been the site of a buried pirate treasure that had been successfully recovered by some unknown person. I was curious to see the reported square pit that had been dug in the crushed shell ground at some period still unknown.
We drove to the boat launch. No sooner had we put the boat in the water than I realized that I had left the second cooler with the drinks behind. Going anywhere with small children and no drinks was unthinkable, so they were going to fish and wait while I went back to fetch the drinks.
I pulled up behind the house and stopped the truck, looking toward the house as I did. The doors were still open as we had left them. We usually did, in complete safety. From the angle I was viewing the door, I could see in through the screen door, and then through the door between the dining room and the living room. My heart skipped a beat to see the same tall figure we’d seen in our bedroom pass from the dining room to the living room. But it had happened so fast. I shook my head to clear my eyes and brain and looked again. Surely it was just an effect of the shadows in the house cast by sunlight flowing in from other windows? Perhaps a cloud had passed over the sun and made me think it was a shadow moving in the house. Whatever it was, I had to go inside and get the drinks. My family was waiting at the boat launch!
My mouth was a bit dry as I got out of the truck and walked toward the house. I stepped inside the door quietly, listening for any sound at all. If anything, the house was more silent than usual. Inside, I couldn’t even hear the normal traffic sounds of the growing housing development across the road. I quietly walked slowly through the house, looking for any sign of anything out of place. Everything seemed to be exactly as we had left it half an hour ago. It was only when I reached the hall that I felt anything at all.
Standing where I could see into my own bedroom as well as my daughter’s, I felt an icy chill creeping up my neck with the intense sensation that there were eyes in the darkened corners of the narrow passage.
Again I shook my head to clear the cobwebs from my brain, turned and walked briskly back to the kitchen to pick up the cooler.
When I arrived back at the boat launch, I was sure that I had imagined the whole thing.
That night, it was me who had the nightmare. I dreamed that I heard the screaming approach of low flying jets flying in formation. As they flew over the house, someone just outside began shooting at them with an anti-aircraft gun that had been hidden in a clump of palmettos. I became hysterical because I knew that, by firing on the jets, attention had been alerted to our position, and we needed to get away before a retaliatory strike was launched.
In the dream, Larry laughed at my insistence that we wake the children and leave immediately. As he was arguing with me, we both heard a low roaring in the distance which, as it became louder and closer, I recognized as a whole squadron of low-flying airplanes – big bombers – approaching from out over the Gulf. Larry suddenly realized I’d been right, but it was now too late to get away safely. We grabbed the children and went out to our car. It wouldn’t start because Larry had forgotten to fix something. We picked up the children out of the car and began to run for the road. There were houses some distance away, and when we came to one with a car in the driveway, Larry looked inside and found the keys were in it. We put the children inside, jumped in ourselves, and Larry cranked the engine. Just as we were pulling away, the bombs began to fall with horrible explosions all around us.
I woke up in a heart pounding, sweating terror. The intensity of this dream was so severe that, for months afterward, any loud or sudden noise made me nearly jump out of my skin. That kind of dream was definitely not good for someone with a damaged heart! I spent most of the night sitting up until the sun began to lighten the sky, and then I went back to bed for a few hours of sleep before I had to get the children up and ready for church.
That Sunday morning was a momentous day for me, though I didn’t know it while I was dressing my little children for church. In one of those strange synchronicities that have occurred throughout my life, I was about to come face to face with the very questions that had plagued me all my life, and which had been forcibly returned to my attention in the past few weeks.
There was a young couple visiting that morning. The young woman was absolutely the most skeletal being I had ever seen in my life outside of photographs of the Holocaust. She was nothing but skin stretched over bones. How she was able to even walk passed my understanding.
It seemed that this young woman had been “plagued by a demon” and she had come to our church, reputed in the Church of God circuit for its holiness and zeal, to be delivered of her demon and saved by Jesus. She had been walking a path of darkness, and she had fallen into the snares of the devil, so now she was ready to be born again, and once that happened, the devil would flee and that would be that!
Well, don’t that just beat all?!
There she was: a real-life demoniac, sitting just two rows ahead of us. I could not take my eyes off of her. I was curious to know exactly what it was that made anyone think that she was possessed? Was it because of her skeletal appearance? Well, heck, that didn’t seem too demonic to me. Maybe she was just ill? Why didn’t they take her to a doctor instead?
Well, what was I thinking? There I was, member of a congregation that believed in faith healing. Where was my faith?
During the sermon the young woman got up and went out, followed soon after by her husband. He returned with her in tow, and I suspected that she had tried to excuse herself from the upcoming exorcism as being unnecessary. Apparently, he had convinced her to try. She returned with a resigned or determined (it was hard to tell which) expression on her face.
After the service, the pastor called the visitors down to the altar and then called on all the deacons of the church as well. They gathered around the young woman, as they had around me when trying to “get me in the spirit”. They all placed their hands on her while the pastor put both his hands on her head, front and back, and began to “pray the demon out”.
Well, you never heard such praying! The girl began to twist and fight against them, and finally she fell on the floor practically foaming at the mouth. That didn’t stop the pastor and the deacons. They were on their knees, keeping their hands on her while they ordered the demon to “leave our dear sister alone in the name of Jesus!” Again and again this demand was made, and each time the poor girl jerked like a puppet responding to the yanking of the strings by the puppet master. Finally, with a horrible strangling sound, she arched her back and went rigid, followed by total collapse and limpness. The girl was asked if she accepted Jesus as her savior. She nodded and whispered “yes.”
Success! The pastor paced back and forth with his hands in the air thanking Jesus for the victory over the demon. More prayers and a veritable chorus of “hallelujahs” erupted from the congregation. Women were speaking in tongues; other women were dancing in the spirit. Members of the congregation were swaying from side to side with their arms raised in the air. “Thank you, Jesus!” I hadn’t seen this much action at church since the last revival!
The young woman was helped to her feet and back to her seat, two rows ahead of me. I stared at the back of her head with great curiosity.
“What,” I wondered, “could possibly be going through her mind after such an experience?”
No sooner had the thought been formed in my mind, as if in direct response, the girl began to turn her head around in my direction until she stopped this strange, slow motion with her eyes directly on mine. Those eyes were not human. Not only that, they smoldered with inconceivably depraved and dangerous awareness and cunning that literally glistened from the black depths of her unnaturally enlarged pupils.
What do I mean? I have never seen this precise phenomenon again, though I have most definitely dealt with more horrifying things in my later work as an exorcist. But in this particular instance I had the visceral sensation that I was looking into the eyes of an ancient being; a timeless abomination looking out at me from this girl’s physical structure. At some soul deep level, I recognized – with sensations of bottomless horror and repulsion – something looking back at me that produced, above all, the impression that I was looking into the eyes of the enemy of mankind made manifest. I have long wondered about this sensation, and, at the time, I shook it off and denied such a foolish thought.
Did her eyes look like those of a serpent? Well, yes and no. Yes, they gave that impression in a cold and preternaturally predatory way, but no, there was no physical characteristic about them that I could point to and say that it was “serpentine”.
The eyes held mine and I felt my mind being “probed”. It is a sensation of deeper violation than being groped or insulted by a stranger because, at a very deep level, it was an attempt at rapacious appropriation that is so intensely repulsive that the body’s own reaction is that of violent sickness. I was almost instantly overcome with nausea and the feeling of the gorge rising in my throat. I tore my eyes away from that hideously lazy gaze and demanded that Larry help me get the children out of there that very instant.
As we were leaving the church I suddenly realized that what I had seen in that young woman’s eyes indicated that not only had the so-called “exorcism” failed, with all the holy members of the church contributing their exhortations and prayers, but that an evil as old as time itself had been stirred to wakefulness. This was something that would have been better left alone. The gauntlet had been thrown down. I couldn’t get away from there fast enough.
When I got home, I decided there would be no more messing around. I wasn’t playing games with that creature out there stalking the planet. If a whole crowd of holy deacons and a church full of the Holy Spirit couldn’t handle this, extreme measures were called for. Galvanized by the experience, not even bothering to sit and work my way through it rationally to discover any reasonable basis for what I was going to do, I took out the metaphysical books again and read the directions for erecting protective barriers for one’s home. With my Bible and a large dish of salt over which I had recited – not nine, but seven – repetitions of the 91st psalm, I began the process of “cleaning my house”. My intention was to speak words into the atmosphere of my house, to announce my awareness of what was “out there” and to definitely and completely refuse it permission, thereby changing the vibrational frequency. As I walked from room to room, reading the 91st Psalm – followed by a clear statement “I know what you are, and I demand you be gone!” – I scattered the salt as a “holder” of the energy of my words. With all my heart, I imbued my words with my intent, motivated by love for my child, and a desperate desire to protect her and my family. There was a sense of outrage and violation that was driving me, and all of these emotions and intentions I directed into the structure of the house, and the space inside and out.
Larry wasn’t too sure about my behavior at that point. It was not entirely “Biblical,” but I was certainly using prayer in an innovative way and he was willing to see if my improvised method had any results. At least he did not interfere.
That night, I dreamed of the dragon. In my dream, he actually very much resembled the animated dragon of the Disney feature “Sleeping Beauty”. But in my dream, he was all too real with his shiny scales and fetid breath, and the stench of sulfur emanating from every aperture of his body. The reality of the terror and unfathomable evil in the dream didn’t have any “cartoon” characteristics, either.
He breathed fire at me. I fought him like the prince in the movie, right to the point where I was backed off a precipice and began to fall into endless blackness. As I tumbled head over heels into the abyss, sensations of futility overcame me, and a sense of grief and mourning for what could have been – what could have existed in the world – tore at my soul. I had lost and the dragon had won. The abject misery of this realization cannot even be conveyed in words. It was the grief of the universe, not just a single soul.
As I fell in that bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair, from somewhere deep inside me the word “No” formed and I was surprised to feel my descent slow ever so slightly. I looked for the word and its meaning again, and found it: “No.” It was imbued with deep meaning of refusal of despair, refusal of the state of hopelessness, and most of all, the refusal of the domination of the fear and terror evoked by the dragon combined with full awareness of its existence. I spoke it, and again, my fall shifted and slowed.
That was interesting. So I began to reach deep inside me for this “mind of awareness combined with refusal,” and to repeat over and over again, like a mantra, the word “no” encompassing this denial of subjection. As I chanted, I stopped falling and began to rise. I chanted “No!” louder and stronger, and my rise accelerated, and soon I was back on the level with the dragon, who seemed a bit surprised to see me again.
He looked as if he could devour me completely and finish the whole episode. His mouth was glistening with dripping, putrid slime. I stood my ground, uncaring of the fact that, in the next moment, I would be consumed. Looking straight into his eyes, full of righteous anger, fully aware of all his tricks and traps, I shouted “No!” over and over again, putting all the force of my will behind it. “No! Even if I die, you have not won because my soul is still mine!” There, with that hideous breath choking me, I exulted in the idea that even if he could destroy my body, he could never take away from me that denial of his power to make me afraid ever again.
And the strangest thing happened. Like a balloon, the dragon began to deflate and shoot and spurt and bounce from side to side, getting smaller with each spfffft sound, until nothing but an oily black object lay on the rocky ground of our battle, sinking into the rock from its own weight of evil.
Suddenly, I awoke. My heart was pounding with exertion and I was covered with perspiration. I felt exactly as if I had just literally and actually fought against a fire-breathing dragon.
As soon as my breathing slowed, I got up and went in to check on my children. Their alabaster cheeks were radiant in the ambient moonlight of the bedroom. I breathed their fragrant breath as I brushed their little lips with feathery kisses. Sure, I hoped that there were guardian angels out there watching over them from somewhere. But I wasn’t taking any chances.