I’m a horror movie fan 365 days of the year. But Halloween is extra special to me because of the larger availability of horror movies. I watch serial killer films to relax. Monster movies get me in the mood. And if I can get a little hipster for a moment, I was way into zombies before The Walking Dead consumed all of America’s brains.
So, while I watch horror movies regularly, I made an effort to squeeze in an extra evisceration or two back in October, Netflixing and Youtubing Z-grade films with ketchup blood and cardboard brains, catching mid-afternoon scary flicks on television and Halloween-themed episodes of my favorite shows. And as I watched nude girls getting nailed to a wall or jocks jogging to their death in a haunted gym, I started to realize how easy it seems to summon evil spirits. Naturally, ouijia boards are a clear violation of soul safety. But other harbingers of evil might seem more innocuous at first, like puzzle boxes, a child’s doll, or a suspiciously inexpensive house for a new family.
No one seems to be able to invoke good spirits with such effortlessness. Why is it that most houses seem to inhabit horrible things? Why is it that spirit boards almost always summon the sinister? Why can’t we call upon God and good energy with the same simplicity that dials up the devil? Why is it that when the Holy Ghost possesses someone, he eventually pulls up stakes in their soul while demons wanna settle? And why are exorcisms so exhausting? Why can’t we just pull those bad spirits out of the skin of innocent victims?
If tales of supernatural serial killers are all fake, I suppose watching teens being pummeled by pissed off poltergeists is more entertaining than being visited by great aunt Sue in your dreams to tell you true love will come your way. But when it’s real, having a real demon on your ass is really scary. It’s no longer about the yuck yuck but the yikes. It’s not entertaining. It’s devastating. And a lot of people would say it is real.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. I can’t say what’s real and what’s not. I can only speak for my own experiences and throughout my life, I do feel I’ve had more than my fair share of bad luck. There have been many times I’ve actually thought I was cursed or that something bad had latched itself onto me. It’s never been anything huge, mostly just circumstances that converge into a crippling disappointment time and time again. But those little heartbreaks weigh heavy over time.
And I’ve called on God to remove the dulling residue of past demons. But instead of feeling cleansed, I’ve only ever felt crushed. What’s it gonna take to tackle the terrifying, to bandage to the bad juju?
I wonder if there’s anything that can be done at all. What if God doesn’t have anything to do with lethargy, larceny, or lunacy? What if, by design or negligence, we are all just hurdling toward implosion? What if our lives are all examples of entropy playing out in real time?
It’s so hard to be nice. We have to constantly bite our tongues, keep our fists at our sides, and step away from the line of fire. We have to talk ourselves up every day and concentrate on keeping the good vibes going. And as soon as we let up on the affirmations, we atrophy all over again. We gotta keep flipping those light switches on less we be surrounded by darkness again.
I don’t know why possessions are prevalent while good spirits are scarce. The only thing I know for sure is nothing is ever going to change. It’s never going to be easy. And when it all comes down to it, who’s to say our lives aren’t someone else’s entertainment? This is why we have reality shows and horror movies based on true events. And there just might be a higher power that gets a kick out of watching us overcome our curses. Maybe things that are really scary can be really educating.
And although we have to fight to be friendly, it’s worth the effort. Instead of adding to the agony, we can help patch up other people. Even if it’s just for a bit, even if it’s just a temporary bandage, isn’t that enough to make a difference? In a world laid to waste, it still matters that we hold out our hands rather than hold up a gun, use our tongues to prepare praises instead of slinging insults, and make moves to slowly kill the hate that’s been jammed into the hearts of others. Maybe only then will the demons dig their way out on their own.
Several weeks (months?) ago, I spoke with a fellow blogger about some of the things going on in my life and in my head. After giving him a couple of my symptoms, he mentioned a lot of them correlated to the dreaded DIABEETUS. He has it and knows the adverse affects of the disease.
I never thought even thought about having it but it’s always a possibility.
You know, I walk around and do my thing and feel these crazy thoughts and wonder about the source of my psychosis. For the longest time, I thought I was depressed. But I never felt comfortable with that label because it feels like an “easy” diagnosis. Someone has a bad day and they have depression. I have bad days every day. I don’t feel good about anything. I float through life, my nerves pinched to numbness. But I can also get out of bed each day and don’t feel those aches and pains associated with depression.
Diabetes can make you feel bad, too.
So, what’s the deal? Is it diabetes or depression that makes me feel like such a basket case?
Or what if I really do just play the victim? Or what if things are a bit heavier? What if theres’ a third “D” swimming around my gut? What if I really do have a demon inside? Holy crap. I just want to know what’s wrong with me.
How does anyone know what’s wrong with them? Does anyone ever get to the heart of the hurt? Or do we flail around and fudge our way through our frustrations? Depression is an easy answer. Diabetes can be a catchy conclusion. Even possession, while not as practical, is possible.
Writing has been one of the most effective ways of trying to figure myself out, to organize my thoughts and fears and lay them out in an organized manner so I can identify and try to solve my problems. So far, all I’ve managed to do is express how I feel without getting to the heart of why I feel the way I do. I’ve got to figure out the cause before I get to the cure. Is it a creature or is it chemical?
How do we ever know? How do we find out? And how do we go about solving the strain of sugar and spirits?
“‘And it’s not just obvious things,’ he said. ‘It’s not all possessions and hauntings and black shadows by the bed. Satan can come knocking wearing a more mundane coat. The Ouija abuser could have health or personal problems, or their luck could just turn rotten. Most often, the afflicted simply find that their faith in God mysteriously drains away. The invisible world of the undead, the world of ghosts and spirits, is the world where the devil lives,’ he told me calmly. ‘And if you go looking for the devil, the devil will find you.’”
-Will Storr vs the Supernatural by Will Storr
When I was a little boy, I used to hang out with my gay cousin, his sister and their dead relative in their haunted mobile home. Well, at least they told me there was a dead relative that lived with them. Although I was around ten-years-old and naive, I was still skeptical of the trailer’s transparent tenant. It was hard for me to imagine there was an actual presence, a ghost, that walked (floated?) among them.
I’m pretty open minded so it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in ghosts but I was also the type of person that needed to see things with my own eyes in order to truly believe. Also, my cousins had tried to trick me with unbelievable stories before.
My uncle had a pond across from his trailer and the eldest cousin, J, once told me it contained a gigantic fish as large as the pond itself. His name was Chester. I was probably about seven at the time and dumb and knew nothing about fish. If wales could get huge, could some species of fish as well? Although I had never heard of a gigantic catfish before, maybe Chester was a freak accident of nature.
My little brain spun with the possibilities but there was never any physical evidence, never any indication of a fin skimming the surface of the shimmery gray pond. I wasn’t sure what to make of J’s claim but his sister, K, backed him up. J liked to be dramatic and spin salacious stories but K was more down to earth and so if she agreed with him, maybe it was really true. Maybe there was a fish as big as a house floating around in the murky water.
Eventually, I came to my senses and realized my cousins were just screwing with me. Chester the catfish was a hoax, unless some toxic waste had somehow spilled into the water, genetically altering the scaly creature’s DNA, turning it into the Godzilla of redneck cuisine. But if that was the case, how come they never told the press and made heaps of cash off their freak-sized pond monster?
The ghost thing was a bit trickier. J said it was one of their relatives, Vernon, who used to live in the trailer before his father moved in. Vernon might have even possibly died there, which would have bolstered the validity of the story and also made it somewhat more believable and spooky. To me, at least, it was more logical there was a ghost in their house rather than an enormous fish with a pituitary problem. It didn’t help matters that the trailer was pretty creepy as it was.
The whole trailer was small and cramped. The interior wasn’t well lit or ventilated and was always hazy with cigarette smoke. My uncle and both cousins smoked so there were ample amounts of ash smeared on the tables and cracked ashtrays among the coffee-stained copies of Cosmopolitan. The smokiness could have easily been misinterpreted as an unnerving fog that had just rolled in to announce the presence of something unholy.
There weren’t many sources of light, either. And what little light they had was dull and mustard yellow in color. There were also rooms in the house I never entered, such as their bathroom and father’s room. Knowing there were unseen rooms within the tiny confines of the place prodded my imagination. Those rooms were mysterious. What was the mobile home hiding in those rooms?
That other half of the house where the unexplored rooms were located was connected to the den and kitchen by a short, narrow hall. A door leading outside was on the right of the hall and was covered by a makeshift drape made from what looked and felt like a burlap sack. It was the only light source in the hall. It filtered the sunlight into jagged brown shafts that splintered off and dissolved into the darkness, leaving an inky black hole…or wall…or entrance to another dimension that floated ten feet in front of me. I had never gone past the inky darkness so I had no idea what was back there. Technically, it was my uncle’s bedroom but for all I knew, that might have been were Vernon died.
And then dwelled.
As with most haunted houses, there was the occasional door swinging open or closed by itself. I rationalized it, like any good skeptic would, as a circulation of air moving the door. That was really the only evidence I ever encountered and it wasn’t much to convince me of an other-worldly entity. But J insisted it was Vernon coming and going. No one ever acted scared about it, possibly because they were making up the whole thing, or maybe because they knew Vernon was family and wouldn’t hurt them.
I, however, thought the idea of a ghost gallivanting in my home was creepy.
Things got creepier when K’s friend, Fallon, came over one day. She was staying the night with K and brought an overnight bag filled with what I assumed was makeup and clothing. A storm was brewing outside and everyone was confined to the small space of the trailer. So, to pass the time inside, Fallon reached over to her bag but instead of pulling out a pot of lip gloss, she took out a Ouija board.
Fallon was another one who had extra occupants in her house.
“I swear,” she told us one day, “if you put your head under water in our tub, you can hear the dead talking to each other.”
Ever since hearing that, I have always been hesitant to stick my head in any body of water large enough to submerge my entire skull. Once again, my imagination took her small sentence and ran wild with it. I envisioned the warm water filling my ears and amplifying the sounds of the dead. What did they talk about? What did they sound like? I definitely did not want to know. This caused many problems during bath time.
So, when Fallon suggested the Ouija, I opted out.
“Come on,” they all said in unison. I didn’t want to be a buzz kill but even at ten-years-old, I had been fed a healthy diet of horror movies and had seen enough to know Ouija boards were not catalysts for contacting Casper. Nothing ever good happened when those things came out to play.
We were in J’s room at the time, an incredibly small space with just enough room for a bed and dresser. His walls were filled with taped up images of the slain pop singer Selena and magazine cutouts of models and clothing. The aforementioned Cosmopolitan belonged to him. The room smelled heavily of JOOP! cologne and hair product.
It was cramped enough with the four of us in the tiny room, not to mention the dozens of models eyes on the walls following every move I made. I was feeling claustrophobic. I needed some fresh, fragrance free air. As Fallon set up the board, I got out and sat in the den.
There wasn’t anything good on during that Saturday afternoon besides football. I looked through J’s small collection of VHS movies. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and Hellraiser 3. I put in the latter as the group in the next room put their hands on the planchette.
After about half an hour, they all came out looking thoroughly satisfied. At this point, my memory fails me. I’m not sure if they told me they actually contacted a spirit. I suspect if they did, J probably had a hand (literally) in hitting up some dead folks.
It wasn’t until fifteen years later when I read Will Storr vs the Supernatural that I almost fully recalled the incident with my cousins and the Ouija board. To summarize the book, Will Storr is a skeptical journalist who went tagged along with demonologists, witches and exorcists as they investigated paranormal activity, all to see if he could find evidence of real ghosts. Interestingly, many of the cases he took part in involved the use of a Ouija board.
And after reading the excerpt found at the beginning of this entry, I realized the description basically fits my life and subsequent death. I’ve had health and personal problems. My luck is rotten. My faith has drained away. Is it possible that I my cousins contacted a demon and consequently I contracted a demon disease?
Far fetched? Maybe. But sometimes I get so bummed I look for answers anywhere. What’s the solution to the ever looming sadness? Is it pills? Is it exercise? Or do I need an exorcism?
It seems a little unfair. I didn’t participate in the Ouija session. I shouldn’t be the one afflicted with any kind of supernatural sickness. I’m not saying that any of the others should have fallen into a funk instead of me but I was an innocent bystander struck by a hit and run raising of the dead. Maybe they talked to a real ghost, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they simply opened the door for something to slide through the seams of the board, a presence that pushed its way into reality.
And then maybe that presence latched itself on to me.
I wonder if that explains this nagging duality that I feel within myself. I’ve always felt like two people: a fat guy and a fractured fool. Maybe there aren’t two of me after all, just two presences in one body. There’s the Brannon and then there’s the demon, mimicking me but with a sadistic slant. It’s the part of me that doesn’t want to care, the part that wants to believe in nothing but chaos and indulgence. It’s the part of me that’s been coming out more and more over the years. It’s the part of me that’s been killing who I was before that day in a haunted trailer.
The question is, how am I supposed to know if I’m possessed? What if I have an STD (Supernaturally Transmitted Demon)? It’s not like I can visit the doctor and ask him to run some tests. There are no physical symptoms to speak of. Well, nothing that would stand out as being paranormal in nature. Sure, at twenty-five years old, there’s still the delightful combination of wrinkles and pimples, the premature balding, the crooked eyes, nose and teeth. There’s the fifteen year struggle with my weight, which I still haven’t managed to control. Even the lump in my throat isn’t so abnormal that it would lead a medical professional to diagnose me with the devil.
Then there’s the internal factors of no meaningful relationships or goals. There’s the emptiness that scrapes at my stomach, a fading joy in things that used to make me happy, like drawing and writing. Even the destructive behavior of overeating and shopping doesn’t do the trick like it used to. But what would a psychiatrist say to that? That’s not necessarily supernatural, just super lame.
So, where does this leave me? If I’m not possessed, then I’m just screwed. And if I am possessed, then I guess I’m still screwed but at least I’d have an explanation for the everyday entropy. What’s going on with me? Is there a phantom floating inside? Is there a demon driving my depression? Is it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or simply an error in judgment or choice?