Tag Archives: demonic possession

222 – Mental Health and the Supernatural: From Schizophrenia to Indigo Children

The shadow of mental illness hangs over supernatural experience. If someone at your office job told you that they really believe that they’d been abducted by aliens, would you look at them the same? I mean, you’re reading the show notes for a paranormal podcast, so maybe you would like them even more. But there is a stigma associated with mental illness in our society and a stigma associated with believing in the supernatural. When you combine them, it’s becomes doubly dubious. 

And I admit, that I’m pretty skeptical. Like most Americans (52%), I believe   in the possibility of ghosts and like 57% of my countrymen and women, I’m also down with psychic powers but if you told me that you had a real deal supernatural encounter, like talking to a demon or you hear spirits in your head, I’m a doubting Thomas.

We have to be somewhat skeptical because while mental health treatment is still a very inexact science and we’re obviously overmedicating many of our most vulnerable patients, when you read stories of schools being closed because of evil spirits or hundreds of child abuse cases a year being attributed to demonic possession, the whole thing feels medieval. Like treating these problems as a spiritual instead of mental health matter might be causing more harm than good.

But are there any actual cases where there might be some kind of supernatural phenomena beyond the mental health issue? 

And that’s the trouble with stigmas, they make things so touchy that people are afraid to tell the truth. No one wants to be associated with mental illness because they don’t want to sound “crazy”, even though almost every single person will fight some kind of psychological disorder at some point in their life. Most people want to steer clear of the supernatural, even though 80% of Americans profess to believe in some kind of God. People need to be able to discuss their experience without everyone judging them. 

Sometimes art can help remove stigmas and sometimes they can make them worse. Sybil famously brought the world of dissociative personality disorder (multiple personality) to the public but Psycho was inspired by the real-life story of Ed Gein, a murderer diagnosed with schizophrenia. Getting our opinions on mental health from movies is dangerous because it paints an unrealistic and sometimes unsympathetic picture of illness. C’mon, in exorcism films, are the possessed ever really just sick? No, then there wouldn’t be a movie, at least not the kind that sells tickets to horror fans. 

In this episode, we discuss the relationships between mental illness and the paranormal. Here’s some of the topics we cover:

Our band Sunspot wrote the song for this week in the late 90s, when Prozac was at its prescriptive height and it seemed that more and more children were being given the drug. My psych professors at the University of Wisconsin would tell me about the lunches that the pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly would put on for psychiatric clinics, they were lobbyists for their drugs. They would actively try to get doctors to prescribe them.

I remember when one of my teenage friends told me she was on Prozac and it shocked me, not that I thought she was crazy, but that she was so young and already on medication. I was shocked that kids weren’t being allowed to “pass through a phase”, they were getting pills right away. Maybe I was reacting to the stigma of mental illness I felt with people in my own family who were on medication, but it felt like maybe we should give kids a chance to be moody. Maybe we shouldn’t be interfering with brain chemistry that’s still so plastic, still developing, still trying to find its way.

And now it’s more than ever, 80 million Americans take a psychiatric drug and over 7 million them are under 18. Maybe we wrote this song too early? 

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

She sits in her room and cries all night
Never had a real boyfriend in her life
Her mommy wonders why she doesn’t have any friends
Daddy only sees her when he has her on the weekends

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

Her grandma thinks that it might be bad luck
I think we used to call it “just growing up”
When you feel that your life is just pathetic
You slap it in a textbook, and blame it on genetics

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

She doesn’t cry anymore
She doesn’t laugh anymore
She doesn’t know how she should feel anymore
A chemical imbalance
That’s covered by insurance
It’s hard to be a little girl
When you’re numb to the world

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

166 – Based On A True Story: Supernatural Suspense with L. Sydney Fisher

After being fascinated with writing and having paranormal experiences at an early age, supernatural suspense author L. Sydney Fisher decided to use people’s real stories of hauntings, possessions, and demonic activity as fodder for her fiction. Her Bradford Haunting series is inspired by a real murder in the 1970s and the strange events that followed in Tupelo, Mississippi, which some of them,  she witnessed herself.

 

l. sydney fisher
L. Sydney Fisher
Her paranormal investigations have led her to write the Haunted History series as well, focusing on more legendary sites around Northeastern Mississippi, so we discuss how she does her paranormal research and the process of how she turns people’s experiences into exciting fiction. Her latest book is The Devil’s Board.

l. sydney fisher

One of the things I like about Sydney’s work is that it’s inspired by true events as opposed to claiming its a documentation (ala The Amityville Horror). Fiction and narratives are meant to be exciting, and horror and suspense are meant to thrill you viscerally. Sometimes you have to go a little extreme with the story to make that happen, and real-life events aren’t usually that extreme.

When you’re researching paranormal claims, it’s really easy to want to exaggerate and make things more dramatic to excite your audience, or in many authors’ cases, to sell your book. When it’s fiction, it gives you that freedom to exaggerate what actually happened to heighten the drama and it gives readers like me (who are generally skeptical of big paranormal claims) permission to turn our BS detectors off and just enjoy the story. The fact that it started with real events, helps make it exciting without straining credulity, and I really appreciate that.

To check out Sydney’s work, please click here to visit her website at LSydneyFisher.com

l. sydney fisher
Hey, baby! It’s TCB time! 

Since L. Sydney Fisher is out in “Elvis Country” and our
conversation about The King of Rock n’ Roll dominated the beginning of the conversation, we thought it’d be a perfect time to sing about the real conspiracy theory that Elvis faked his own death.  Here’s Sunspot with “The King’s Not Dead”!

Well the King’s not dead baby
You know the King ain’t dead.
He faked his OD on the potty
Flew to Brazil instead

I saw Elvis Presley
At the Burger King in Kalamazoo
He just wanted some peace and quiet
And a Double Whopper too.

Well the King’s not dead baby
Hell no the king ain’t dead
He was on borrowed time from organized crime
after Nixon made him a fed.

I saw Elvis Presley
He was an extra in Home Alone.
He’s wearing a sweet turtleneck
Under the beard he had grown

Well the King’s not dead baby
Oh no the King’s not gone
Misspelled his middle name above his grave
So that we’d know it’s a big con

I saw Elvis Presley
Outside a store in Nashville
He was looking for his microphone
Cuz he’s got some time to kill.

I saw Elvis Presley
riding on a unicorn
Doing karate kicks with Bigfoot
And saying it’s alright mama, you don’t have to mourn.

105 – Exorcism: Carl Seige and The Four Signs of Possession

Exorcism, it’s back baby! From scores of possessed Peruvian kids to the Catholic Church increasing the number of priests they train for exorcism, to a psychiatrist seriously discussing possession in the pages of The Washington Post, the word on the street is that people are getting possessed by demons and it’s gonna take some of that Power of Christ to compel them out of there!

One of our favorite paranormal experts, Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts, has been researching cases of demonic possession and we brought her on to talk about a little known, but very influential exorcism case, that occurred in the Devilish Dairy State (that’s Wisconsin) in the 1860s.

watertown wisconsin carl siege exorcism
Watertown, WI in the 19th Century – this is the best they could do for aerial views, I guess.

It all begins with the Seige Family, who were living in Germany in the late 1840s. Carl’s little sister was playing outside when she found a duck egg with a pinhole in it. She brought it into show the family but the mother immediately said to get rid of it. However, before they could, the dog ate it. Soon after, the poor pooch passed on and the sister became violently ill. She suffered for a year with blindness and fits and then passed away. One side of Carl’s body shriveled and he became very sickly. Soon after the family emigrated to Watertown, Wisconsin because they knew that the Devil wouldn’t follow them to America (right? Right?!)

Not so, Carl continued to suffer from strange symptoms. Newspapers reported that he had a lizard (or some said a snake) in his stomach. He started acting crazy so his parents brought in a Native American doctor to help draw out the evil, but that didn’t seem to work. So, they finally called in the demon-cleansing professionals, the Catholic Church.

Now the Catholic Church says that there are four Signs of Possession:

  •  Knowing The Unknowable – This is where you possess knowledge that you can’t possible have known beforehand. People’s locations, things that they were doing, who they were with, secrets, etc… Basically psychic powers like you’re Professor X watching them through Cerebro.
  • Understanding Unlearned Languages – Being able to comprehend when people are speaking to you in a tongue with which you have no prior experience. This is especially useful when possessed people go on vacation.
  • Aversion to Sacred Objects – Crosses, holy water — all the kind of stuff that people try in vampire movies but never seems to work because they don’t have enough faith.
  •  Supernatural Strength – When little kids can throw a grown man across a room or a tiny middle-aged woman can bench press a sofa bed, that means they’ve probably been popping Satanic Steroids.

You don’t have to exhibit all the signs to be authentically demonically possessed, but it’s an important checklist because at least 3 out of the 4, you can’t really fake. (It’s easy to act freaked out around a cross, people do it in Dracula movies all the time. It’s a lot harder to answer someone speaking in Latin or deadlift a Mini-Cooper.)

In Carl’s case he exhibited three of the signs, number one, he met his would-be Exorcists, the Rev. John Gmeiner and another priest as they were arriving, even though no one told him when they were coming. Number two, the priests would ask him questions in Latin and he’d give the correct answer, responding in German, but showing that he understood the Latin nonetheless (even though he had no prior education in the language.) Number three, when he was deep in the throes of his possession, he reacted violently to the crucifix.

spirits of darkness carl seige exorcism
Father Gmeiner invented the “Horror Movie” font 30 years too early!

The priests exorcised Carl and were able to drive the demons out of him according to Father Gmeiner’s book, Spirits Of Darkness. But like herpes simplex, the demons never really go away, they just hide and come back in multiple outbreaks of possession throughout your life. Carl Seige had to be exorcised many times during his life to keep the Devil at bay.

In the present day, they recently held an Exorcist training seminar in Northern Illinois at Mundelein Seminary. Allison stopped by there last week to do some research and maybe catch a glimpse of some of those Catholic heroes who are learning the proper angles to spray Holy Water and the latest in projectile vomit-avoidance techniques. Our friend, Tea Krulos, wrote an article about it in the Milwaukee Record and called it “Exorcist-palooza”.

mundelein seminary carl seige exorcism
Excuse me guys, is this where all the Exorcists hang out?

There’s an new Exorcist TV show coming on FOX this season as well. William Peter Blatty’s book was famously based on a 1949 case, but there’s some connections that Allison has been researching that are less well known, and that’s a story for another podcast.

Self-harm is one of the cornerstones of demonic possession. There’s even a case in the Bible where Jesus encounters a possessed man cutting himself with stones. (Mark 5:5) This song, “Mercy of Myth” by our band Sunspot talks about how punishing yourself needlessly isn’t worth it, because not only does it make you feel bad, it also opens you up to being possessed!

There is a Hell we hold within,
you can’t forgive yourself for the things you did.
A hair shirt and a bottle,
won’t let you forget.

Consequently, rear entry
is all that we’re left with.
We camouflage our sabotage,
and lay at the mercy of myth.

And culpa’s even worse than Crack,
You don’t need a sheepskin to know that,
even after cutting, nailbiting, hair pulling and spiting.
All your shame is still toxic.

Consequently, rear entry
is all that we’re left with.
We camouflage our sabotage,
and lay at the mercy of myth.

I’ll abandon ship on this guilt trip,
and let it drown,
Need some clemency from self pity,
and burn it out.