If you hunt ghosts long enough, you'll eventually run into this situation: a client who believes his or her home is under demonic assault. It's always a tricky situation, and it's always difficult to bring a resolution to these cases. More often than not, what you will be dealing with is a simple haunting—though this may not be evident at first look. You will have to go past the religious leanings, the paranoia, and (possibly) the hysteria that's typically clouding an otherwise manageable case.
So, why do people often believe they are experiencing demonic infestation? Well, there are a couple reasons for this. The first is often the religious beliefs of the household. If the clients attend a church that promotes the idea of active demons, demonic possession, and infestation (or attended such a place in their youth), they will often be quick to jump to the conclusion that they are under just such an assault.
Another key factor is the overall fear level of the household. Not everyone is as thrilled as ghost hunters at the prospect of encountering a spirit! If the clients are afraid of what's happening in their home, they can often come to think of these occurrences as a kind of negative activity. For instance, a door slamming is now done "in anger" rather than it, perhaps, being the simple act of an entity to get some attention.
Nine times out of ten, once you remove the fear factor from a household, you will then be able to help the inhabitants understand the benign nature of what is occurring around them and to bring about a resolution to their haunting. Interestingly, though, there are a few key concepts that come from the "demonic infestation" theory that deserve a closer look.
Famed Roman Catholic exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth has stated on more than one occasion that he believes all ghosts to actually be demons that are attempting to gain the confidence of the afflicted—with the intent of eventually possessing that person (you can read about this in his book, An Exorcist Tells His Story). Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that this is the case. It would certainly illuminate several unique situations that involve some hauntings:
- Ghosts being in multiple places. Since investigators believe that spirits are often attached to a specific property because of environmental factors (such as the presence of limestone, nearby water source, etc.), there has never been a good explanation as to why some ghosts are seen in multiple places. The spirit of Abraham Lincoln is just such a ghost. Clearly, there is only one Abraham Lincoln. So who are the other spirits? Imposters? If each of these haunts is being visited by a demon pretending to be Abraham Lincoln, it would certainly explain the multiple appearances of the former president.
- Why do ghosts only haunt certain places? Not every place that has experienced a death is haunted. This implies that there has to be some sort of factor involved with the afterlife that causes some spirits to stick around while others do not. Is it choice? Paranormal investigators believe that many spirits choose to stay because they are in an environment that they love—but, clearly, many also stay in environments of horrible trauma, or where vicious acts have occurred, and where people have even experienced heartbreak and loss. If ghosts are demons, this situation becomes clearer: spirits do not linger after death. All these "ghosts" are simply demons pretending to be the living—and these beings would clearly thrive in an environment that's seen a lot of terrible things.
- The Philip Experiment. During the 1970s, a group of Canadian parapsychologists decided to invent a ghost. They chose a non-haunted location, made up a name/age/background for their fake spirit, and proceeded to perform a typical paranormal investigation. Imagine their surprise when, after a few days of work, they started getting activity in the place—including communications from an entity that corroborated the Philip back story by pretending to be him. Was a ghost manufactured from nothing? Of course not. Was it a demon lying to the investigators in an attempt to interact more with them? Hmm…
- Haunted people. We've all seen the movies and heard the stories: some people seem to be afflicted their entire lives by spirits (wherever they go), while others never encounter such a thing. Why? If we are to believe Father Amorth, it could have everything to do with the fact that these people are "obsessing" or "paying attention" to those of the otherworld. This is said to be one of the steps of possession, along with "invitation" and "infestation." And it goes to reason that these same people would spend more time dwelling on the subject of ghosts than those who had never seen one. This all supports the progression of invitation, infestation, obsession, and possession.
- Why do ghosts wear clothes? This is usually followed closely by, "Why do ghosts appear as one certain age—one that's often not the last age they attained?" For most ghost hunters, there are simply no logical answers to these questions other than "they can appear however they want to." If, however, ghosts are demons purposely attempting to appear to us in a way we will accept them, the answer becomes clear: it's all a charade in an attempt to get us to interact with them.
So, do I believe that all ghosts are in reality demons? Not at all. I've now written two books for Llewellyn Publishing on ghosts and ghost hunting (The Ghost Hunter's Field Guide and Ghost Hunting for Beginners—not demons and demon hunting! But I do believe it is important that paranormal investigators keep an open mind. After all, until we have scientifically explained exactly how and why ghosts exist, all theories are still open for discussion.
Does this mean that we all need to take a lesson in exorcism from Father Amorth? I’d have to vote "no" on this as well. Let's leave the religious rituals to those who specialize in such things and concentrate on performing a sound paranormal investigation. As I stated before, most instances of demonic infestation usually pan out to be hauntings.
Of course there's nothing wrong with wearing a cross or other religious medal while investigating either…