Archive for February 18th, 2009

I blogged on this subject elsewhere last summer, but I’m reposting here because I feel like examining the subject again (yes, I was watching episodes of A Haunting on YouTube this morning).

Begin repost:

I am starting to suspect a trend toward people writing books about their alleged hauntings or possessions or whatever, not so much for profit’s sake as to lure the unwary paranormal enthusiast into a proselytizing situation.  There’s a suspicious similarity to these tales, many of which are cropping up on shows like Discovery Channel’s A Haunting; and they almost invariably end in some sort of religious deliverance.  Then you do a little digging on teh intartubes and find the person’s website, and learn that out of their haunting has come a ministry.  Hmmm.

(To say that I doubt the veracity of many or most of these claims would be a mild understatement.  In some cases where I’ve had the dubious fortune to read sample bits of their dreadful books, I can only think that perhaps these were frustrated horror novelists who couldn’t get anyone sane to publish their dreck unless they shifted to a first-person narrative, pitched it as a True! Life! Haunting! along with the religious conversion angle, and sold it to a Christian publishing house.  But y’all know how cynical I tend to be.)

And the whole “ohnoezdabblingindangerousOCCULTFORCES11eleventy!!” thing has been done to death, brought back from the grave, and done back to death again.  Seriously.  If just reciting some words from a book you bought at the mall, or playing with a piece of cardboard with letters and numbers printed on it, has unleashed the fiends of hell upon your household, then perhaps UR DOIN IT RONG.  I’ve known quite a few witches, magicians, occultists, and the like over the course of my life, and I have yet to see any of them who’ve been demon-possessed or cursed or haunted.  The one person I have known who claimed to be demon-possessed exhibited many symptoms suggestive of undiagnosed schizophrenia (with manic features, so there was the potential for a touch of undiagnosed bipolar disorder there, too).  So, um, yeah.  The whole “witchcraft/ouija boards/meditation/etc. opens a doorway to evil forces” meme has been a part of the popular culture at least since the 1980s, when I became aware of it in the middle of the Satanic Panics of that decade. 

I suppose I should just be thankful that they’re no longer pushing the canard about rock music conjuring up the devil and his minions.  Perhaps the Dark Ones hate rap and crap music as much as I do.

End repost.

It’s not just A Haunting that follows this format; I’ve also been watching some episodes of A&E’s Paranormal State, and the Christian religious angle is very apparent there, as well.  Of the half-dozen episodes I’ve seen in the past couple of days, I can’t recall one off-hand that didn’t involve at least one big invocative prayer against the dark forces–no, wait, I take that back; there were no prayers on the episode where they determined that the phenomena in the house were being caused by a carbon monoxide leak.  That was the only one free of interventionist prayers.

Sometimes I think that people outside the pagan/polytheistic faiths are even more superstitious and gullible than the ones within.  It’s always “Oh no, don’t even LOOK at a Ouija board!” or “He read a book on witchcraft and next thing you know, he had a houseful of DEMONS!” or “That house was built on an ANCIENT INDIAN BURIAL GROUND and it’s haunted-cursed-possessed–whatever!”  You’d think a hunk of cardboard (or plastic, as today’s Ouijas are made of) or a cheap paperback cranked out by some Llewellyn hack was more dangerous than plutonium. 

Set your minds to rest, people.  The museum where I volunteer has a haunted reputation; the family who owned it were Presbyterians, not devil-worshipping seance-having Satanists.  I own a modest but reasonably comprehensive library of occult literature; the house is still standing, and the only person who’s ever come on the property and claimed to see “portals of evil” was the person with the major mental malfunction mentioned earlier in the post.  When I was sixteen or so, I found a Ouija board; someone had lobbed it, box and all, out the window of a car, and it landed in the ditch in front of my house.  I’m not making this up.  I had a few little private seances where I asked it just the kinds of stupid questions a sixteen-year-old might ask (well, assuming that the sixteen-year-old in question was a weirdo like me).  I only remember two of those things, but the answers were both perfectly accurate.  The house in which those seances were conducted is still standing; and to my knowledge, no one has ever reported seeing any demons or portals of evil therein.

Fear of the unknown is human, and normal.  Fear of the spiritual practices of those who are very different seems to be normal as well.  In most cases unfounded, ridiculous, and overblown, but normal.  The only prescription I can come up with is talking to others who have different ways, and coming to realize that they aren’t so very different under the skin–but that’s hard-to-impossible to do, since most of us are only ever exposed to the freakshow types of various faiths that the media likes to trot out for our entertainment.  The internet may hold the key, but only if all parties are willing to be honest and set their preconceptions aside, at least momentarily.  Is that possible?  In some cases, I think maybe; but the memes here are pretty deeply rooted, and fear is the most primal and hardest to eradicate of our responses.  I’ll keep blogging, in any case; even a single candle can dispel at least a little darkness.


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