The Fascinating Exorcism Case in USA Today

USA Today, of all places, is reporting on an exorcism case, originally reported in the Indianapolis Star. It’s remarkable for several reasons. First, because of the sheer number of eyewitnesses: the Star interviewed “police, DCS [Department of Child Services] personnel, psychologists, family members and a Catholic priest.” There are nearly 800 pages of official records documenting the events.

Francisco Goya,
St. Francis Borgia Attends a Dying Unrepentant (1788)

Nor is it just the quantity of eyewitnesses. Many of the eyewitnesses are sober-minded professionals, and both the priest and bishop seemed hesitant to conclude that this really was demonic: in fact, it was the first time Bishop Dale Melczek authorized a major exorcism during his 21 years heading the Diocese of Gary.

Second, the things that the witnesses report having seen are remarkable, to say the least:

  • Ammons and Campbell said the 12-year-old was levitating above the bed, unconscious.
  • Medical staff said the youngest boy was “lifted and thrown into the wall with nobody touching him,” according to a DCS report.”
  • According to Washington’s original DCS report— an account corroborated by Walker, the nurse — the 9-year-old had a “weird grin” and walked backward up a wall to the ceiling. He then flipped over Campbell, landing on his feet. He never let go of his grandmother’s hand. “He walked up the wall, flipped over her and stood there,” Walker told The Star. “There’s no way he could’ve done that.”
  • “[Gary Police Captain Charles] Austin said the driver’s seat in his personal 2005 Infiniti also started moving backward and forward on its own.

Third, it’s remarkable is that the story gets the religious details right, explaining how the exorcist went from performing minor exorcisms to two major exorcisms in English until he finally succeeded with a major exorcism in Latin.

I suppose that there’s a fourth reason, but it’s a guilty pleasure: watching people who can’t accept the possibility of demonic squirm, trying to come up with an explanation. As Christians, we’re free to disbelieve that this case was demonic. Just because we believe that demons exist doesn’t mean that everything blamed on demons is really demonic (as opposed to delusions, lies, mental illness, etc.). We don’t have a prior commitment to it being demonic or non-demonic, so we can simply evaluate the evidence as it comes to us.

But atheists who deny the existence of the spiritual realm can’t accept even the possibility that demonic forces were at work here. Their worldview forces them to pre-judge the case (no demonic activity), which results in commenters with some hilariously convoluted intellectual cop-outs to avoid the obvious conclusion. For example, one commenter asserted:

Group hysteria. Same way those corn field preachers “heal” the sick. Devout believers and their Gullibility. Nobody is really cured and the belief there is a bearded guy hiding in the clouds and a red dude living under our feet’s makes these gullible people easily swayed to stupidity.

That’s awfully smug for a guy who thinks that Christians believe in “a bearded guy hiding in the clouds and a red dude living under our feet.” And of course, his smugness prevents him from needing to provide a coherent explanation of the data: Christians are gullible, therefore we can explain away a levitation and a child walking backwards up a ceiling because…?

That’s the general tone of the atheistic commenters so far: they have accused the family (and apparently everyone else) of smoking crack, proposed that a gas leak at the home made everyone delusional (including, apparently, the people at the hospital who watched the kid walk up the wall), etc. A few of them at least seem aware of how absurd their position is. One of them wrote: “this never happened. and yes I am saying that everybody involved is lying!

So there it is: dozens of people  who don’t know each other, including a priest, various police officers, and various doctors and medical professionals, inexplicably collaborated to trick us. Or… maybe there are some questions that atheistic materialism is incapable of answering.


  1. Joe, would the non believer hold to the idea that every phenom has a material explanation given time, moneys, commitment, etc. ? And is that idea like having say, err, …. faith?

    1. Teomatteo

      I know I’m not Joe…but I wanted to responsd

      I think you are on to something, but I hestitate becuase such a position seems to more closely resemble “blind faith”…whereas true Faith is in accordance with reason (truth won’t contradict truth). Perhaps it would be more accurate to call an empiricial materialist who refuses to look at empirical and material evidence for the spiritual realm a fideist.

      Think of it this way – take a materialist/empiricist social worker who is put on this case and faces overwhelmingly evidence that the metaphiscal notions upon which rests his or her entire worldview is false. A fideist would simnply ignore the evidence or say something like “it can’t be explained now but it will be when we have the technology” or something like that. On the other hand, common sense would seem to necessitate our social worker rethink his or her metaphysical position.

    2. I would agree, the skeptic who says “there will be a scientific explanation at some point in the future” is not basing that statement on empirical evidence but on faith in the actualization of a future event that is, by definition, not empirical.

  2. the 9-year-old had a “weird grin” and walked backward up a wall to the ceiling…

    That would be my cue to up and run like the wind.

    Don’t be like those idiots in horror movies. You know when someone screams at the movie in the theater: “DON’T GO IN THERE! THE MONSTER IS GONNA KILL YOU!“? That kid walking up the wall to the ceiling is THAT moment…

    Run away, and live a long happy life instead of dealing with that.

    this never happened. and yes I am saying that everybody involved is lying!

    Is that possible? That everyone lied. Yes, it is a possibility I must concede. Money could be a good enough motivator for some people.

    Is it likely… I would have to say: “No.”

    BTW: Keeping a secret about something that has happened, and lying about something that happened are two totally different things. People can keep (and have kept) secrets about something, people aren’t the best liars though. Keeping a secret involves everyone’s mouth just staying shut. Lying involves people keeping to a cover story which oftentimes falls apart under close scrutiny. Many times though those two overlap.

    I myself have seen enough weird stuff in my life to just throw up my hands and say: “You know what? Weird stuff’s gonna happen. Just move along.”

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