I believe in the possibility of demons.
I'm a natural skeptic. I hear stories of ghosts, demons, and possession, and I raise an eyebrow. Ouija boards, in my opinion, are bogus. Horoscopes and fortune tellers are so vague and generic that they get it right most of the time.
But something inside me still believes that there is a possibility that the supernatural world is real. That there is validity to some of the paranormal things going on in this world.
A priest once told me that we have a Diocesan Exorcist. One priest is appointed as the exorcist for the entire Diocese, which is a large region, geographically. If another priest is faced with a possessed soul, they call the exorcist, who will come and pray over them, performing rites in an attempt to remove the demonic presence. This happens! The Linda Blair, split pea soup-spewing, spider-walking, head-spinning images of the 70's are still happening today.
It's kind of hard to believe. That being said, I do have a personal story of exorcism. The tale is true, although the demon is questionable.
Foreign Cars are the Devil
Growing up, I was a member of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Farmington, Iowa. It was a quaint church in a town of 750. A few times each week, we'd travel highway 2, through the stoic evergreens of Shimek forest, from Donnellson to Farmington. The town was tired and dilapidated. Once a vibrant river town that took advantage of the commerce that traveled the shallow waters of the Des Moines River, Farmington had begun to dry up when the railroads and highways began etching their way into the rolling hills of Southeast Iowa.
The church was a potpourri of families that lived in and around the dirty little town. Some older couples, tottering in on canes and replaced knees. A nice man named Gerhardt, who was missing one hand, everything from the forearm down. A few of my classmates' families, although none the really cared to associate with me. One woman distinctly stands out in my mind. No one knew how to take her. Her name was Christie.
Christie was around my moms age. Sandy brown hair laid plainly on her head. She was extremely tan, with wrinkly-leather skin pulled across her petite frame. Christie dressed plainly, with white canvas shoes and smudged khaki pants that were too short for her wiry legs. She often wore some type of button down shirt or sweater that seemed as thought someone thrown it out. Christie believed in demons.
The story goes that Christie moved to Iowa from Washington state, to attend the Maharishi School of Enlightenment in Fairfield, Iowa. Something happened while she was there, and she left the school to live in Farmington. Again, I do not know what the incident was, but the Christie I knew was both physically shaken and mentally distraught.
She walked with a timidity that reminded me of a nervous rabbit, arms pulled in tight and eyes nervously glancing back and forth. When she prayed in church, she folded her hands beside her head and laid her cheek against them. Her face was wrought with distress over silent pleas that no one else knew. Every time she spoke, it was with a whispered cadence that sounded as if she was trying to sing, but afraid of how it might sound. The result was a haunting voice that hung in the air like a fog, settling on your memory and turning to dust.
Christie was the point of much pity in our church and my mother made a point to make her welcomed at every opportunity. We had dinner with her, sat with her at church functions, and helped out with things she had trouble handling on her own. That's where this story picks up.
It was a brisk October day, not over 40o Fahrenheit, when my mother got a call. The voice on the other end was breathy and sing-song. When she hung up, my mom turned to me,
“Christie called. She said she needs her car cleaned. I guess she drove through something.” There was more to the story than this, but my mother wasn't divulging any other details.
“Isn't it a little cold for a car wash?” I asked. I was not looking forward to any part of this mandatory charity event.
“Just go out there and help her.” She commanded with a roll of her eyes. After some cajoling, I got the truth out of her.
“Her car is possessed.”
“I guess she drove through...something, and now her car is possessed.”
“WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT THAT!?! I don't know how to cleanse demons! I am not an exorcist! Come on, mom!”
My pleas for reason fell on deaf ears. Begrudgingly, I set out to deal with the demonic Volvo.
The Tools of the Trade -- Lime Away and Carpet Cleaner
When I got to Christie's house, she was waiting for me at the door. She led me to the dingy silver Volvo wagon and explained to me the process that I was to follow:
Step 1 - Pour Lime Away pipe cleaner onto floors, seats, and any other surface, until thoroughly soaked with green goop.
Step 2 – Vainly attempt to soak up the verdant, viscous liquid with old towels.
Step 3 – Pray to God that Christie is satisfied before my hands freeze off.
When I opened the driver door, I was greeted with the project already in progress. Christie had unloaded two bottles of Lime Away onto the floor of the car. It seemed that this had happened some time earlier in the day, as the liquid was a semi-frozen slush. As the mid afternoon sun started lowering itself behind the scraggly trees, I began the process of exorcising the demons.
The first step was to remove the icy liquid from the floor. I checked the back for an ice scraper. No such luck. I attempted to chisel the corrosive liquid from its hold on the carpeted floor with a pen, but got nowhere. Then I got smart. Requesting a bucket of the hottest water available, I proceeded to besiege the Lime Away with scalding water, thus successfully liquifying the frozen cleaner. Objective completed. As I looked down triumphantly at the floor boards of the vehicle, my mood quickly changed from triumphant to disparaged. While I had melted the frozen muck, the car was now even swampier and, with the sun going down, the potential for another frozen floor was imminent. So I began bailing out.
After the majority of the liquid was removed from the floor, I was able to soak up the remainder with some old towels that Christie had provided. About the time I was finished with that project, Christie came out with a Shop-Vac and a can of carpet cleaner.
“Spray this on the seats. We need to get rid of it all.”
Ignoring the fact that a vacuum would have made the floor job much easier, I tried to think of a response to her request. Finding none that would meet Christie's irregular logic, I sighed and proceeded to coat the seats with an expanding white foam that smelled of old rubber. After vacuuming the upholstery, I returned triumphantly to Christie's door.
“All finished!” I proclaimed with vigor and chattering teeth.
Christie sidled up to the car with some trepidation. She peeked into the backseat, opened the hatchback, and seemed to be satisfied with the job I'd done. But then she sat in the drivers seat.
Immediately, she turned and looked me straight in the eye.
“You need to do the dashboard.”
“Christie, what do you mean? How do I do the dashboard?” I responded reluctantly. The methods used thus far were not utilizing electronics friendly cleaning agents, and this worried me.
She looked around a moment, then reached down for a bottle of Lime Away. Handing me the bottle, she pointed at the electronic panel of dormant meters and lights.
“If I put this stuff on the dash, It could ruin the car. There are electronic controls up there that – ” She cut me off,
“You need to do the dashboard. That's where they are. Please just do the dashboard.” She was adamant, but I realized the implication of this decision. I tried one more time,
“Why don't I just put it on like this?” I squirted the liquid onto one of the towels and began rubbing it into the vinyl.
In a surprisingly quick motion, she snatched the bottle from my hands and pushed me aside. As she sporadically squirted the cleaner onto the control panel, she ordered,
“Like this! You need to do it like this!” then she darted away and disappeared into the darkened doorway of the house. As I assessed the situation, I noticed her silhouette in the kitchen window, watching me as I stood in the frosty dusk. And so I began to dump the remainder of the bottle onto the dashboard.
The green liquid poured into the defrost vents. It seeped into cracks and ran over the edge, dripping onto the steering column. I did my best to mop up the goo, all the while my stomach sank lower and lower with the realization that I may be destroying a perfectly good vehicle. A perfectly good, potentially possessed vehicle, but none-the-less, a perfectly good vehicle.
I finished mopping up the mess I'd made, collected all the empty bottles, rags, buckets, and left them with the vacuum by the front door. Christie didn't come to the door when I knocked, so I closed up the soggy car and drove home, reflecting upon the task I'd just completed.
I don't know if the car was possessed. I don't know what Christie thought she'd caught in the engine of her Swiss-made hatchback. I do know that she had the entire dash replaced a few days later, due to an unknown failure in the electronic systems. But of some things, I can be certain.
Something had affected Christie. Whether it was in her car, in her house, or in her head, something had definitely upset her.
And that is real.