Possession is an effective tool for a horror writer
|The idea that gods, demons and other entities from the supernatural world have the ability to temporarily take control of the human body and cause an obvious change in the individual’s behaviour is called Possession. This concept is featured in many ancient myths and legends, and is a feature of some religions and creeds. In most instances this is referred to as Spiritual Possession. Wiccans refer to it as Drawing down the moon whilst Shamanic, Hindu and Buddist faiths call it Invocation. Christians call Spiritual Possession Baptism with the Holy Spirit. But there is another form of Possession, and it’s the feature of this newsletter. |
When one or more demons enter a person’s body with the intention of using it for an evil or destructive purpose it’s known as Demonic Possession. The demon can also use a dead human body, an animal or an inanimate object to carry out its evil wishes, which may take several forms. Perhaps the demon wants to harm another person, or perhaps it wants to punish the person it possesses for failing to met his or her side of a bargain. It may want to “test” the subject it possesses before using him or her to achieve its objective. Or maybe it wants to take control over an organisation or idea that could affect every single person living on the planet… many good horror stories have featured mind or thought control. Who’s to say that evil isn’t behind teaching us to think in a certain way?
In Stephen King’s The Shining the lead character is slowly driven insane by the isolation of the remote hotel, the knowledge of his own failings and a supernatural, evil presence in the hotel. His son has the power of premonition, and can see the evil waiting to destroy his family.
There are a number of different ways that a person can, usually inadvertently, invite a demon to take possession of his/her body.
The Ouija Board is carte blanche for a demon, even when the board is being used to find the answers to seemingly harmless questions, like the name of a future spouse. The main problem here is that those using the Ouija Board don’t actually know what is answering their questions nor how powerful the being may be.
People at a low point in their lives, who may be feeling depressed, sad or desperate may harbour a desire to hand over responsibility for their lives to some else. Demons construe this as a sign of weakness, and the added appeal is that a weak character is easy to control. Someone may wish that a situation or a person who is making their life difficult didn’t exist, and if the desire is strong enough a demon will oblige – but there’s always a heavy price to pay.
Recently a belief receiving attention is the thought that a person may become possessed during an organ transplant; receiving a portion of the donor’s spirit during surgery. If the donor was a murderer or an evil person in life then there’s no telling how much of the malignant nature is passed to the recipient. And how will the recipient act?
W G Griffiths’ Driven is a Christian-themed horror novel in which a detective seeking to avenge his grandfather's death teams up with a computer hacker to track down a demon terrorizing New York.
In medieval times it was thought Satan could possess someone in two different ways; either directly into the victim or through collaboration with a person wishing to harm the victim – usually a wizard or a witch. The elderly, the poor and the disfigured members of medieval society were often the victims of possession by the Devil, who was often summoned by someone wishing to own the possessed person’s home or other property. Widows were often targeted in this way. People afflicted with terrible deformities, particularly of the face, were believed by many to suffer from the Mark of the Devil. Consider the general opinion of John Remick, also known as The Elephant Man in 19th century London. He endured years of humiliating, degrading treatment at the hands of a suspicious public.
Jonathan Aycliffe’s The Talisman tells of a mysterious statue that winds up in the hero’s home while awaiting transport to a museum. The statue is an icon of Satan, and it begins to affect our hero’s family fin disastrous ways, and continues to do so, even after it is taken to the museum.
A person believed to be demonically possessed undergoes a complete change in behaviour. In fact the demonic entity may dominate the victim to such an extent that the person becomes the demon. Signs of possession may be a notable difference in character, taste, life-style and certain preferences that came out of blue - a person may begin to express cravings he never had before (for specific food, alcohol, drugs etc). The individual’s behaviour can change dramatically change for no obvious reason; he/she person may completely change a circle of friends or interests in life. Sometimes the possessed person has an idea that something's wrong or different, while other times friends may comment upon the dramatic changes. The person may also have wild mood swings.
The lead character in Lawrence Block’s Ariel is driven to demonic jealousy by the arrival of her newborn baby brother. Her mischief slowly becomes a malevolent evil.
The Catholic Church claims one true sign of possession is superhuman strength, usually accompanied by convulsions and/or fits. The church also believes a possessed person will undergo a change in personality, be knowledgeable about the future or other secret information and being able to understand and converse in languages not known by the victim prior to the possession. The church defines true signs of possession as displaying superhuman strength, often accompanied by fits and convulsions; changes in personality; having knowledge of the future or other secret information; and being able to understand and converse in languages not previously known to the victim. Other signs include: horrible smells such as bad body odour or sulphur (associated with hell), the practice of lewd/obscene acts, rapid weight loss so the victim appears close to death, distended stomachs and changes to the vocal range – a deep rasping and menacing tone is commonly described. A possessed person may exhibit signs of automatic writing or levitation, and have a violent reaction to any religious sign, such as a crucifix.
Science can explain many of these symptoms. Epilepsy can cause seizures and convulsions, while personality changes may be a result of schizophrenia or severe depression. A distended stomach is a sign of malnutrition, and could also indicate the presence of a tumour. Mental instability can cause a person to commit lewd/obscene acts.
In Michael Mareno’s Dawn Song the demons of Hell are struggling for ultimate power. One demon, a succubus that feeds on the souls of men she seduces, stages her campaign from the rooftops of Boston. As the battle rages on, its effects begin to reach far beyond Earth and into the realm of the eternal.
Exorcism is the term used for “casting out” the demon, and is performed by an exorcist. Usually a priest or an individual blessed with special powers or skills, the exorcist often calls upon a benign supernatural being to remove the demon. The exorcist may use prayers and other religious material, such as symbols, amulets, icons and specific gestures. Most faiths that acknowledge Demonic Possession have different ways to approach exorcisms. Possessed person are not generally considered evil, neither are they thought to be responsible for their actions. It should be stipulated here that exorcism is NOT considered a punishment – it’s a cure.
Rolf Geiger, The Prodigy in Noel Hynd’s book of the same name, lives a charmed life. His skills as a pianist have earned him worldwide fame, fortune and the love of a beautiful woman. But genius has a price –about to start a world tour the vengeful spirit of his dead mentor Rabinowitz returns to torment him…