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Churches combine forces in Rome to learn best exorcism practices because of rise in possession cases

Exorcism is going multi-denominational. Where once those competing for the souls of followers would burn each other as heretics and spur decades-long wars, different Christian denominations are now rallying together to battle a resurrected threat.

And that’s no less than Satan himself.

The Roman Catholic Church has for the first time opened up its annual exorcism class in Rome to representatives of all major Christian faiths. The Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum is a Vatican-affiliated university in Rome has been conducting the increasingly popular annual exorcism conventions for Catholic priests for the past 14 years.

But now the doors of the 14th Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation Course has been thrown open to groups once considered heretical and demon-infested only a few short centuries ago.

Now some 250 Catholics, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox and Protestant priests have assembled to arm themselves with the sword of the holy word to battle Satan amid the souls of their parishioners.

It is itself a dark art, born of a dark age.

The Catholic Church, however, insists demonic possession is on the rise.

In 2014, it formally recognised the ancient ritual of exorcism under Canon Law at gave official approval to the formal creation of the International Association of Exorcists.

It blames the secularisation of society (separation of religion and state) along with the increasing popularity of competing religions, tarot readings, astrology, the internet and atheism for opening the demonic floodgates.

And the best way to fix this, it believes, is to tackle the ‘possessed’ head-on.

Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation Course

© Pontifical University
The Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum’s Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation Course.

Sword of the Spirit

“We are called to fight against the Devil with all our might and determination,” keynote speaker and Catholic priest Jose Enrique Oyarzun addressed the assembled exorcists in Rome.

In this enlightened age, the practice sounds odd to many.

And that’s the problem, exorcists insist.

Speaking in lost tongues. Vomiting weird objects. Unexplained wounds. Writhing. Shaking. Shrieking abuse.

Supernatural strength.

While there is rarely evidence beyond the anecdotal, exorcism practitioners insist their behind-closed doors experiences are very real.

And it’s a threat Pope Francis himself has been keen to highlight, making regular references to the power of the Devil in his sermons.

“He is evil, he’s not like mist. He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person. I’m convinced that one must never converse with Satan – if you do that, you’ll be lost,” the Pope recently told a Catholic news service.

Now, the Pope has a spiritual army of his own at his command.

The International Association of Exorcists counts some 400 priests among its members worldwide. And the death of its most famous demon hunter, Father Gabriele Amorth, in 2016 served only to inspire a surge of fresh applications.

But they’re not enough.

So the Catholic Church is seeking a source of fresh recruits.

A depiction of an exorcism from the Middle Ages.

A depiction of an exorcism from the Middle Ages.

Shield of Faith

When it comes to skewering Satan, there are problems of doctrine.

Not all the Christian faiths believe the same things. And they’ve put each other to the torch and started wars over such serious matters in the past.

Why not now?

“This is the first time that different denominations have come together to compare their experiences on exorcisms,” Spanish priest and theologian Pedro Barrajon, one of the convention’s organisers, told media in Rome.

“The idea is to help each other, to establish best practices if you will. The Catholic Church is most associated with exorcisms because of films like The Exorcist and The Rite, but we are not the only church that performs them. Expelling the devil goes back to the earliest origins of the Christian Church.”

It’s a spiritual battle winning secular attention.

The Italian government also apparently takes the alleged possession crisis seriously.

Its education ministry this year offered its teachers the option of attending an intensive 40-hour “exorcism and prayers of liberation” crash-course as a sideline to the convention in Rome. At the cost of 400 euros ($A640) each, every attending teacher was promised to be taught how the ancient rite should be “correctly practiced”.

The move attracted ire from the Italian opposition parties who insisted the education system had more to worry about than training teachers in magic.

“With all the problems in Italian schools, the ministry is trying to bring back the Dark Ages,” opposition, centre-Left MP said Laura Boldrini said.

“Schools need to prepare young people for the challenges of the future. And what does the education minister do? He promotes exorcism courses. (Meanwhile) schools are not safe, gyms are not fit to be used and teachers are not properly paid.”

course guide from the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum's Exorcism

© Pontifical University

Breastplate of Righteousness

Father Barrajon, 61, told the conference in Rome that non-Catholic denominations were less structured in their exorcism rituals. “Some of the other churches are more creative, they don’t use a precise format,” he said.

And that could present a problem: perhaps any harpies inhabiting a human body won’t be entirely evicted.

Which is why they want priests to attend demonology school.

Participants attending the conservative Legionaries of Christ religious order run university study such subjects as “The Symbology of Occult and Satanic Rituals” and “Angels and Demons in the Sacred Scripture”.

The need to get it right, according to the exorcists, is pressing.

Last year, exorcist Benigno Palilla told Vatican Radio that there were some 500,000 cases of possession appearing in Italy each year.

But there are rising concerns about the validity of the priestly practice.

Some faith healers have been accused of sexually molesting their possessed patients.

One case in Palermo saw a priest and soldier arrested after using the pretext of “expelling demons’ to touch the genitalia of women.

In another Italian case, an underage girl was sexually abused by a 69-year-old practitioner, her boyfriend and her mother. “He convinced the girl she was the victim of strong ‘negative forces’ and consequently convinced her to undergo ‘purification rites’ consisting of sexual intercourse, sometimes in a group,” Italian police said at the time.

Pope Francis said shortly before the convention that priests entrusted with the “delicate and necessary ministry” of being an exorcist must be chosen with “great care and great prudence.”

Belt of Truth?

The broader Catholic Church admits to being dubious about most claims of possession.

Its officers publicly state the majority of such claimants are, in fact, mentally ill. Instead of priests, they should be seeking medical attention to address physical health issues.

But Pope Francis has recently adopted a more urgent tone.

In March, he reportedly told a group of priests they “should not hesitate’ to refer confession-box cases of possession to an exorcist.

“They could also have spiritual disturbances, whose nature should be submitted to careful discernment,” Pope Francis said, “taking into account all the existential, ecclesial, natural and supernatural circumstances.”

The exorcism convention, however, concedes there may be complicating medical issues at hand and included talks on medical psychology, criminology, pedophilia and pornography.

Pope Francis himself has acknowledge that “epilepsy, for example, could easily be confused with demonic possession”.

But this, he wrote, should not lead to the conclusion “that all the cases related in the Gospel had to do with psychological disorders and hence that the devil does not exist or is not at work.”

So the worldwide Catholic Church continues to leave open the possibility that what its followers perceive to be Satanic possession may be the real supernatural deal.

During last year’s exorcism convention, Cardinal Ernest Simoni insisted Satan’s touch was unmistakeable. He had himself witnessed possession, he said.

“It’s important to differentiate between psychopathic illnesses, neurasthenia, pathologies,” the Cardinal said during a keynote address. “Satan you can recognize.”

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Occult

The Dreaded House of Boleskine

Near Loch Ness stands the dreaded Boleskine House of infamous Occultists and Rock Stars alike. Within lies a harrowing history of demonic madness.

One thing is for sure. The old country is a spooky place. Something that will always separate Europe from America is the difference of having thousands of years of relatively well-known and documented history.

Not all of it may sit well with the faint of heart either. Through bloodshed and misery the castles and streets have become havens for ghostly apparitions of the restless undead.

However, it is the mystery of the countryside, especially the cryptic and beautifully bleak countryside of Great Britain that can share histories of unparalleled horror. With its old names and enigmatic backgrounds these haunts are breeding places for untold terrors.

The southern bank of Loch Ness in Scotland is no different. In fact, it has a tale to fill the stoutest heart with ice that is less than one hundred years old.

The House of Demons and Sorcery

It is like any other Scottish country mansion. Beautiful and old, a mysteriously majestic quality the same of which cannot truly be found anywhere else in the world. Yet inside the salmon stucco walls of Boleskine House a horrible secret is kept.

For starters across the courtyard on the other side of a rural road rests a graveyard that is over a century old. It was built in the late nineteenth century by a man named Archibald Fraser. Its neighbor, macabre resting place, predates the house by decades. This is because before there was a house at Boleskine there was an old church. One that burnt to the ground– with everyone inside it.

Not a happy place to put up a lot. Rumor has it that a tunnel was built to connect the graveyard to the house, but that is only the beginning of the tragedies that would soon fill this place with dread.

In 1899, the house was acquired by the infamous magician Aleistor Crowley for a very specific purpose. It was Crowley’s intention to use the house’s remote location to summon the hordes of demonic spirits as listed in the grimoire The Book of the Sacred Magick of Abra-Melin the Mage.

This sort of hocus pocus may sound like nothing more than a standard game of Dungeons and Dragons, but Crowley was more than deadly serious. To quote him:

“The first essential is a house in a more or less secluded situation. There should be a door opening to the North from the room of which you make your oratory. Outside this door, you construct a terrace covered in fine river sand. This ends in a ‘lodge’ where the spirits may congregate.”

With the proper house obtained Crowley set about the task of completing a complex six-month ritual that would end in disaster.

Aleister Crowley

Throughout his life, Crowley mentions a continuous personal goal to make contact with his holy guardian angel. To do this he would first have to summon the forces of darkness. Strange occurrences began happening in the area, hushed whispers of it being bad luck to go near the house began to circulate. The terrified locals stayed as far away from Crowley and his house as they could. Some even stated that the impression of the cloven goat hoofs of Lucifer himself could be seen on Crowley’s river sand terrace. A couple people even went mad.

Then it happened. The crumbling leadership of the Occult order of the Golden Dawn requested the help of Crowley to bring stability to their lodge. Despite his qualms of what was surely going to happen, Crowley left Boleskine house with the ritual unfinished.

By the time he would return a canopy of perpetually dark clouds hung over the house. The man Crowley had left in charge of the house had fled and no one in the local village dared come within sight. Crowley himself soon fled too.

Madness at the Lake of Loch Ness

It has been pointed out by a few that the early sightings of the fabled Loch Ness Monster ironically coincide with the fleeing of Crowley from the house. Yet what would happen inside the house near its southern bank in the subsequent years to come would, shall it be said, blow the odd little creature out of the water.

It is recorded knowledge that most who took up residence at Boleskine either went insane or left quickly. Like the house in Amityville, there were many who could only take the oppressive and frightening strangeness for a month.

A young man left his blind wife calling out and groping through the halls as he wandered out into the hills. A military officer with no determined history of mental illness committed suicide.

The bad vibes and bad luck of the place would continue until it came into the hands of the perfect owner. The guitar god and life long Occult practitioner, Jimmy Page of the band Led Zepellin.

The Nightmarish Account of Malcolm Dent

In the early 1970s, Boleskine house came into the possession of Jimmy Page the rock star whose life is quite chronicled. What some don’t know about Page is that he really was and still is into the practice of Crowleyen magick.

Any fan of the music need not look too far to discover that throughout his life Page has spent countless hours and dime in the search of Occult relics primarily having to do with Crowley. Accompanying this hobby, despite his admittance to it, is the absolute silence Page has kept over the years regarding the matter or anything similar in nature.

Though Page admitted to encountering the spirits within Boleskine himself, it is not he who the stories come from. These events were handed down by his childhood friend, Malcolm Dent, who Page made caretaker of the property.

Dent was the perfect choice for the job. He was not to be found in the rock music scene or any scene for that matter. A down to earth man with no vice for substance Jimmy placed him in charge of the grounds while he was away.

While the master of the house was gone Dent spent most of his time trying to ignore the bumps in the night as well as fight off the not-so-peace loving Crowley hippies who would stalk the house grounds.

Did Dent know what he was getting himself into when he first came to the house and found a Pentagram, sword, and ritual room floor covered in river sand? Probably not too the extent that he would soon find out. One night he woke up to the sound of rolling crashes outside in the hall.

A thumping, thudding sound that went back and forth down the hallway. He expected the cats, but later found out he was not the first to hear these sounds. They dated back to a beheading that had taken place there some time ago. The rolling sound was the man’s head scuttling about on the floor.

Another time Dent woke up in the clutches of fear. A thing sat outside his bedroom door. It sniffed and scratched, pulling at the lock. Dent sat upright with his pocketknife and did not venture out of his room until noon the next day.

He later stated that it was the most horrifying experience of his life and that he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that whatever hunted him that night was pure evil.

Dent would go on to marry and raise a family in Boleskine house till 1991 when Jimmy Page sold the property. This brave soul passed away just last year.

Boleskine House Today

The house still stands and is open for visitation by all. For a while it was a reputable bed and breakfast where according to the new owners nothing out of the ordinary seemed to happen. It is a peaceful place now surrounded by the beautiful Scottish countryside.

Ever so often throughout the years the house does come back on the market. Keep an ear open for its listing.

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Salem Unveils World’s Largest Ouija Board This October

The Talking Board Historical Society will be revealing Ouijazilla this October is Salem, MA.

Ouijazilla the world's largest ouija board to be unveiled in Salem this Halloween

Rick Ormortis Schreck, the Vice President of the Talking Board Historical Society whose family has been dubbed the “real-life Addams Family,” has been hard at work preparing to crush the current world record holder for the world’s largest Ouija board.

The massive board, which has been named Ouijazilla, was constructed out of wood and hand-painted by Schreck in the classic Ouija style.

“So I finally am able to talk about the Top Secret project that I have been working on since last Summer,” Schreck posted on Instagram. “It has been a Hell of a journey and. It ain’t over yet. Stay tuned for sneak peeks at the Monster!”

Ouijazilla will be unveiled in Salem this October. More info here.

World’s Largest Ouija Board

World's largest Ouija board

The Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, Pennsylvania currently holds the Guinness World Record for the Ouija board they painted on their roof in 2016 along with the accompanying ten-foot planchette on wheels.

I’m thrilled to see what kind of monster Ouija Schreck has created.

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DNA and Genealogy Tests Reveal the Identity of a 19th Century Vampire

Imagine taking one of those genealogy tests which are so popular these days and finding out you’re a descendant of a vampire. You would undoubtedly deny it (or perhaps be proud of it) and seek to prove your point either way with a DNA test … only to find that your DNA matches up to the vampire. If your name is Barber and you have ancestors in New England, you may want to take notes and wear some extra sunblock at the beach this summer because researchers have identified a man buried as a vampire in 19th century Connecticut.

In 1990, an abandoned cemetery was found in Griswold, Connecticut. Researchers determined it to be the private cemetery of the Walton family, which owned and farmed the land from 1690 into at least the 1800s. The remains of 29 individuals were found – men, women and children – and most showed evidence of lives of hard labor. However, one stone-lined grave caught the attention of Paul S. Sledzik and Nicholas Bellantoni, who were doing research for their paper “Bioarcheological and Biocultural Evidence for the New England Vampire Folk Belief,” which was eventually published in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Why?

“Upon opening the grave, the skull and femora were found in a “skull and crossbones” orientation on top of the ribs and vertabrae, which were also found in disarray. On the coffin lid, an arrangement of tacks spelled the initials “JB-55”, presumably the initials and age at death of this individual.”

In their study of New England vampire beliefs, Sledzik and Bellantoni found that the descriptions of alleged vampires generally say that the person was wasting away and losing flesh despite leading an active and otherwise normal life. This led to the belief that vampires craved food and ultimately human flesh, which is why relatives of vampires seemed to eventually suffer from the same wasting away. These are also the symptoms of tuberculosis, which was called consumption in those days and ran rampant throughout the unsanitary farms of 18th and 19th century New England. While most cemeteries of that era showed many people suffering from and dying from consumption, only JB-55 had it in the Walton cemetery.

“Several years after the burial, one or more of his family members contracted tuberculosis. They attributed their disease to the fact that J.B. had returned from the dead to “feed” upon them. To stop the progress of their disease, the body of the consumptive J.B. was exhumed so that the heart could be burned. Upon opening the grave, the family saw that the heart had decomposed. With no heart to burn, the bones of the chest were disrupted and the skull femora placed in a “skull and crossbones” position.”

According to the paper, the New England way of dealing with suspected vampires was to burn their heart, especially if blood was found in it. In this case, the heart had decomposed, so instead the family rearranged the bones into a skull-and-crossbones formation – the next best thing since decapitation was also a way of keeping a vampire in its grave.

The case of JB-55 intrigued Charla Marshall, a forensic scientist with SNA International in Alexandria, Virginia, who participated in the DNA and geneaology analyses to identify JB-55. In a presentation given recently at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, the findings of Marshall and experts at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System’s DNA laboratory in Dover, Delaware, were revealed.

“When modern tools were used – Y-chromosomal DNA profiling and surname prediction via genealogy data available on the Internet – the experts said they came up with a match for the last name: Barber.”

Barber! That made it easy for the forensic experts to check old cemetery and newspaper records. As the Washington Post reports:

“They discovered a newspaper notice mentioning the death there in 1826 of a 12-year-old boy named Nathan Barber, whose father was a John Barber. Researchers had found a grave near JB’s containing a coffin with the notation NB 13 similarly tacked on the lid.”

SO, JB-55 was not a vampire but a poor farmer and father named John Barber who lost his 12-year-old son and eventually wasted away from tuberculosis, only to be later suspected of vampirically rising from the grave and attacking his own relatives before they dispatched him forever by detaching his skull and rearranging his bones.

All you New England Barbers out there — you don’t do things like that anymore, right? RIGHT?

Source: Mysterious Universe

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