‘There is, in my experience, no such demonstration of present miracle-working, of any kind, sufficient to suggest that a particular miracle, like the resurrection of Jesus, is likely to be a miracle from a god. This is actually the way everyone thinks, all the time: we do not believe stories that come to us second-hand which contradict our direct experience, because each fact presents us with two possible realities, the only evidence of one is a story, the only evidence of the other is direct observation."
Since the claim that “no miracles today implies none then” is a stock objection to Biblical miracles, it merits some comment.
i) I’d begin my noting that event if we grant Carrier’s premise (no miracles today), the conclusion is fallacious:
ii) What’s striking, though, is that Carrier takes his premise for granted. And this is quite common among unbelievers.
This is a case of self-reinforcing ignorance. The unbeliever assumes that miracles never happen. Therefore, he deems it a waste of time to do any serious reading in the sort of literature (on the miraculous, occultic, or paranormal) that would attest the occurrence of supernatural or preternatural events. So we end up with a circular argument: if you don’t go looking for evidence, you may well succeed in failing to find the evidence you didn’t look for!
Let’s cite some ostensible evidence of supernatural or paranormal events in the post-Biblical history. This is a very tiny sampling of what’s available.
Why, they say, are those miracles, which you affirm were wrought formerly, wrought no longer? I might, indeed, reply that miracles were necessary before the world believed, in order that it might believe. And whoever now-a-days demands to see prodigies that he may believe, is himself a great prodigy, because he does not believe, though the whole world does. But they make these objections for the sole purpose of insinuating that even those former miracles were never wrought. How, then, is it that everywhere Christ is celebrated with such firm belief in His resurrection and ascension? How is it that in enlightened times, in which every impossibility is rejected, the world has, without any miracles, believed things marvellously incredible? Or will they say that these things were credible, and therefore were credited? Why then do they themselves not believe? Our argument, therefore, is a summary one— either incredible things which were not witnessed have caused the world to believe other incredible things which both occurred and were witnessed, or this matter was so credible that it needed no miracles in proof of it, and therefore convicts these unbelievers of unpardonable scepticism. This I might say for the sake of refuting these most frivolous objectors. But we cannot deny that many miracles were wrought to confirm that one grand and health-giving miracle of Christ's ascension to heaven with the flesh in which He rose. For these most trustworthy books of ours contain in one narrative both the miracles that were wrought and the creed which they were wrought to confirm. The miracles were published that they might produce faith, and the faith which they produced brought them into greater prominence. For they are read in congregations that they may be believed, and yet they would not be so read unless they were believed. For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles. For the canon of the sacred writings, which behoved to be closed, causes those to be everywhere recited, and to sink into the memory of all the congregations; but these modern miracles are scarcely known even to the whole population in the midst of which they are wrought, and at the best are confined to one spot. For frequently they are known only to a very few persons, while all the rest are ignorant of them, especially if the state is a large one; and when they are reported to other persons in other localities, there is no sufficient authority to give them prompt and unwavering credence, although they are reported to the faithful by the faithful.
The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there, and by which a blind man was restored to sight, could come to the knowledge of many; for not only is the city a large one, but also the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, which had long lain concealed and unknown, but were now made known to the bishop Ambrose in a dream, and discovered by him. By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day.
But who but a very small number are aware of the cure which was wrought upon Innocentius, ex-advocate of the deputy prefecture, a cure wrought at Carthage, in my presence, and under my own eyes? For when I and my brother Alypius, who were not yet clergymen, though already servants of God, came from abroad, this man received us, and made us live with him, for he and all his household were devotedly pious. He was being treated by medical men for fistulæ, of which he had a large number intricately seated in the rectum. He had already undergone an operation, and the surgeons were using every means at their command for his relief. In that operation he had suffered long-continued and acute pain; yet, among the many folds of the gut, one had escaped the operators so entirely, that, though they ought to have laid it open with the knife, they never touched it. And thus, though all those that had been opened were cured, this one remained as it was, and frustrated all their labor. The patient, having his suspicions awakened by the delay thus occasioned, and fearing greatly a second operation, which another medical man— one of his own domestics— had told him he must undergo, though this man had not even been allowed to witness the first operation, and had been banished from the house, and with difficulty allowed to come back to his enraged master's presence—the patient, I say, broke out to the surgeons, saying, Are you going to cut me again? Are you, after all, to fulfill the prediction of that man whom you would not allow even to be present? The surgeons laughed at the unskillful doctor, and soothed their patient's fears with fair words and promises. So several days passed, and yet nothing they tried did him good. Still they persisted in promising that they would cure that fistula by drugs, without the knife. They called in also another old practitioner of great repute in that department, Ammonius (for he was still alive at that time); and he, after examining the part, promised the same result as themselves from their care and skill. On this great authority, the patient became confident, and, as if already well, vented his good spirits in facetious remarks at the expense of his domestic physician, who had predicted a second operation. To make a long story short, after a number of days had thus uselessly elapsed, the surgeons, wearied and confused, had at last to confess that he could only be cured by the knife. Agitated with excessive fear, he was terrified, and grew pale with dread; and when he collected himself and was able to speak, he ordered them to go away and never to return. Worn out with weeping, and driven by necessity, it occurred to him to call in an Alexandrian, who was at that time esteemed a wonderfully skillful operator, that he might perform the operation his rage would not suffer them to do. But when he had come, and examined with a professional eye the traces of their careful work, he acted the part of a good man, and persuaded his patient to allow those same hands the satisfaction of finishing his cure which had begun it with a skill that excited his admiration, adding that there was no doubt his only hope of a cure was by an operation, but that it was thoroughly inconsistent with his nature to win the credit of the cure by doing the little that remained to be done, and rob of their reward men whose consummate skill, care, and diligence he could not but admire when be saw the traces of their work. They were therefore again received to favor; and it was agreed that, in the presence of the Alexandrian, they should operate on the fistula, which, by the consent of all, could now only be cured by the knife. The operation was deferred till the following day. But when they had left, there arose in the house such a wailing, in sympathy with the excessive despondency of the master, that it seemed to us like the mourning at a funeral, and we could scarcely repress it. Holy men were in the habit of visiting him daily; Saturninus of blessed memory, at that time bishop of Uzali, and the presbyter Gelosus, and the deacons of the church of Carthage; and among these was the bishop Aurelius, who alone of them all survives—a man to be named by us with due reverence—and with him I have often spoken of this affair, as we conversed together about the wonderful works of God, and I have found that he distinctly remembers what I am now relating. When these persons visited him that evening according to their custom, he besought them, with pitiable tears, that they would do him the honor of being present next day at what he judged his funeral rather than his suffering. For such was the terror his former pains had produced, that he made no doubt he would die in the hands of the surgeons. They comforted him, and exhorted him to put his trust in God, and nerve his will like a man. Then we went to prayer; but while we, in the usual way, were kneeling and bending to the ground, he cast himself down, as if some one were hurling him violently to the earth, and began to pray; but in what a manner, with what earnestness and emotion, with what a flood of tears, with what groans and sobs, that shook his whole body, and almost prevented him speaking, who can describe! Whether the others prayed, and had not their attention wholly diverted by this conduct, I do not know. For myself, I could not pray at all. This only I briefly said in my heart: O Lord, what prayers of Your people do You hear if You hear not these? For it seemed to me that nothing could be added to this prayer, unless he expired in praying. We rose from our knees, and, receiving the blessing of the bishop, departed, the patient beseeching his visitors to be present next morning, they exhorting him to keep up his heart. The dreaded day dawned. The servants of God were present, as they had promised to be; the surgeons arrived; all that the circumstances required was ready; the frightful instruments are produced; all look on in wonder and suspense. While those who have most influence with the patient are cheering his fainting spirit, his limbs are arranged on the couch so as to suit the hand of the operator; the knots of the bandages are untied; the part is bared; the surgeon examines it, and, with knife in hand, eagerly looks for the sinus that is to be cut. He searches for it with his eyes; he feels for it with his finger; he applies every kind of scrutiny: he finds a perfectly firm cicatrix! No words of mine can describe the joy, and praise, and thanksgiving to the merciful and almighty God which was poured from the lips of all, with tears of gladness. Let the scene be imagined rather than described!
In the same city of Carthage lived Innocentia, a very devout woman of the highest rank in the state. She had cancer in one of her breasts, a disease which, as physicians say, is incurable. Ordinarily, therefore, they either amputate, and so separate from the body the member on which the disease has seized, or, that the patient's life may be prolonged a little, though death is inevitable even if somewhat delayed, they abandon all remedies, following, as they say, the advice of Hippocrates. This the lady we speak of had been advised to by a skillful physician, who was intimate with her family; and she betook herself to God alone by prayer. On the approach of Easter, she was instructed in a dream to wait for the first woman that came out from the baptistery after being baptized, and to ask her to make the sign of Christ upon her sore. She did so, and was immediately cured. The physician who had advised her to apply no remedy if she wished to live a little longer, when he had examined her after this, and found that she who, on his former examination, was afflicted with that disease was now perfectly cured, eagerly asked her what remedy she had used, anxious, as we may well believe, to discover the drug which should defeat the decision of Hippocrates. But when she told him what had happened, he is said to have replied, with reli gious politeness, though with a contemptuous tone, and an expression which made her fear he would utter some blasphemy against Christ, I thought you would make some great discovery to me. She, shuddering at his indifference, quickly replied, What great thing was it for Christ to heal a cancer, who raised one who had been four days dead? When, therefore, I had heard this, I was extremely indignant that so great a miracle wrought in that well-known city, and on a person who was certainly not obscure, should not be divulged, and I considered that she should be spoken to, if not reprimanded on this score. And when she replied to me that she had not kept silence on the subject, I asked the women with whom she was best acquainted whether they had ever heard of this before. They told me they knew nothing of it. See, I said, what your not keeping silence amounts to, since not even those who are so familiar with you know of it. And as I had only briefly heard the story, I made her tell how the whole thing happened, from beginning to end, while the other women listened in great astonishment, and glorified God.
A gouty doctor of the same city, when he had given in his name for baptism, and had been prohibited the day before his baptism from being baptized that year, by black woolly-haired boys who appeared to him in his dreams, and whom he understood to be devils, and when, though they trod on his feet, and inflicted the acutest pain he had ever yet experienced, he refused to obey them, but overcame them, and would not defer being washed in the laver of regeneration, was relieved in the very act of baptism, not only of the extraordinary pain he was tortured with, but also of the disease itself, so that, though he lived a long time afterwards, he never suffered from gout; and yet who knows of this miracle? We, however, do know it, and so, too, do the small number of brethren who were in the neighborhood, and to whose ears it might come.
An old comedian of Curubis was cured at baptism not only of paralysis, but also of hernia, and, being delivered from both afflictions, came up out of the font of regeneration as if he had had nothing wrong with his body. Who outside of Curubis knows of this, or who but a very few who might hear it elsewhere? But we, when we heard of it, made the man come to Carthage, by order of the holy bishop Aurelius, although we had already ascertained the fact on the information of persons whose word we could not doubt.
Hesperius, of a tribunitian family, and a neighbor of our own, has a farm called Zubedi in the Fussalian district; and, finding that his family, his cattle, and his servants were suffering from the malice of evil spirits, he asked our presbyters, during my absence, that one of them would go with him and banish the spirits by his prayers. One went, offered there the sacrifice of the body of Christ, praying with all his might that that vexation might cease. It did cease forthwith, through God's mercy. Now he had received from a friend of his own some holy earth brought from Jerusalem, where Christ, having been buried, rose again the third day. This earth he had hung up in his bedroom to preserve himself from harm. But when his house was purged of that demoniacal invasion, he began to consider what should be done with the earth; for his reverence for it made him unwilling to have it any longer in his bedroom. It so happened that I and Maximinus bishop of Synita, and then my colleague, were in the neighborhood. Hesperius asked us to visit him, and we did so. When he had related all the circumstances, he begged that the earth might be buried somewhere, and that the spot should be made a place of prayer where Christians might assemble for the worship of God. We made no objection: it was done as he desired. There was in that neighborhood a young countryman who was paralytic, who, when he heard of this, begged his parents to take him without delay to that holy place. When he had been brought there, he prayed, and forthwith went away on his own feet perfectly cured.
There is a country-seat called Victoriana, less than thirty miles from Hippo-regius. At it there is a monument to the Milanese martyrs, Protasius and Gervasius. Thither a young man was carried, who, when he was watering his horse one summer day at noon in a pool of a river, had been taken possession of by a devil. As he lay at the monument, near death, or even quite like a dead person, the lady of the manor, with her maids and religious attendants, entered the place for evening prayer and praise, as her custom was, and they began to sing hymns. At this sound the young man, as if electrified, was thoroughly aroused, and with frightful screaming seized the altar, and held it as if he did not dare or were not able to let it go, and as if he were fixed or tied to it; and the devil in him, with loud lamentation, besought that he might be spared, and confessed where and when and how he took possession of the youth. At last, declaring that he would go out of him, he named one by one the parts of his body which he threatened to mutilate as he went out and with these words he departed from the man. But his eye, falling out on his cheek, hung by a slender vein as by a root, and the whole of the pupil which had been black became white. When this was witnessed by those present (others too had now gathered to his cries, and had all joined in prayer for him), although they were delighted that he had recovered his sanity of mind, yet, on the other hand, they were grieved about his eye, and said he should seek medical advice. But his sister's husband, who had brought him there, said, God, who has banished the devil, is able to restore his eye at the prayers of His saints. Therewith he replaced the eye that was fallen out and hanging, and bound it in its place with his handkerchief as well as he could, and advised him not to loose the bandage for seven days. When he did so, he found it quite healthy. Others also were cured there, but of them it were tedious to speak.
I know that a young woman of Hippo was immediately dispossessed of a devil, on anointing herself with oil, mixed with the tears of the prebsyter who had been praying for her. I know also that a bishop once prayed for a demoniac young man whom he never saw, and that he was cured on the spot.
There was a fellow-townsman of ours at Hippo, Florentius, an old man, religious and poor, who supported himself as a tailor. Having lost his coat, and not having means to buy another, he prayed to the Twenty Martyrs, who have a very celebrated memorial shrine in our town, begging in a distinct voice that he might be clothed. Some scoffing young men, who happened to be present, heard him, and followed him with their sarcasm as he went away, as if he had asked the martyrs for fifty pence to buy a coat. But he, walking on in silence, saw on the shore a great fish, gasping as if just cast up, and having secured it with the good-natured assistance of the youths, he sold it for curing to a cook of the name of Catosus, a good Christian man, telling him how he had come by it, and receiving for it three hundred pence, which he laid out in wool, that his wife might exercise her skill upon, and make into a coat for him. But, on cutting up the fish, the cook found a gold ring in its belly; and forthwith, moved with compassion, and influenced, too, by religious fear, gave it up to the man, saying, See how the Twenty Martyrs have clothed you.
When the bishop Projectus was bringing the relics of the most glorious martyr Stephen to the waters of Tibilis, a great concourse of people came to meet him at the shrine. There a blind woman entreated that she might be led to the bishop who was carrying the relics. He gave her the flowers he was carrying. She took them, applied them to her eyes, and forthwith saw. Those who were present were astounded, while she, with every expression of joy, preceded them, pursuing her way without further need of a guide.
Lucillus bishop of Sinita, in the neighborhood of the colonial town of Hippo, was carrying in procession some relics of the same martyr, which had been deposited in the castle of Sinita. A fistula under which he had long labored, and which his private physician was watching an opportunity to cut, was suddenly cured by the mere carrying of that sacred fardel, — at least, afterwards there was no trace of it in his body.
Eucharius, a Spanish priest, residing at Calama, was for a long time a sufferer from stone. By the relics of the same martyr, which the bishop Possidius brought him, he was cured. Afterwards the same priest, sinking under another disease, was lying dead, and already they were binding his hands. By the succor of the same martyr he was raised to life, the priest's cloak having been brought from the oratory and laid upon the corpse.
There was there an old nobleman named Martial, who had a great aversion to the Christian religion, but whose daughter was a Christian, while her husband had been baptized that same year. When he was ill, they besought him with tears and prayers to become a Christian, but he positively refused, and dismissed them from his presence in a storm of indignation. It occurred to the son-in-law to go to the oratory of St. Stephen, and there pray for him with all earnestness that God might give him a right mind, so that he should not delay believing in Christ. This he did with great groaning and tears, and the burning fervor of sincere piety; then, as he left the place, he took some of the flowers that were lying there, and, as it was already night, laid them by his father's head, who so slept. And lo! before dawn, he cries out for some one to run for the bishop; but he happened at that time to be with me at Hippo. So when he had heard that he was from home, he asked the presbyters to come. They came. To the joy and amazement of all, he declared that he believed, and he was baptized. As long as he remained in life, these words were ever on his lips: Christ, receive my spirit, though he was not aware that these were the last words of the most blessed Stephen when he was stoned by the Jews. They were his last words also, for not long after he himself also gave up the ghost.
There, too, by the same martyr, two men, one a citizen, the other a stranger, were cured of gout; but while the citizen was absolutely cured, the stranger was only informed what he should apply when the pain returned; and when he followed this advice, the pain was at once relieved.
Audurus is the name of an estate, where there is a church that contains a memorial shrine of the martyr Stephen. It happened that, as a little boy was playing in the court, the oxen drawing a wagon went out of the track and crushed him with the wheel, so that immediately he seemed at his last gasp. His mother snatched him up, and laid him at the shrine, and not only did he revive, but also appeared uninjured.
A religious female, who lived at Caspalium, a neighboring estate, when she was so ill as to be despaired of, had her dress brought to this shrine, but before it was brought back she was gone. However, her parents wrapped her corpse in the dress, and, her breath returning, she became quite well.
At Hippo a Syrian called Bassus was praying at the relics of the same martyr for his daughter, who was dangerously ill. He too had brought her dress with him to the shrine. But as he prayed, behold, his servants ran from the house to tell him she was dead. His friends, however, intercepted them, and forbade them to tell him, lest he should bewail her in public. And when he had returned to his house, which was already ringing with the lamentations of his family, and had thrown on his daughter's body the dress he was carrying, she was restored to life.
There, too, the son of a man, Irenæus, one of our tax-gatherers, took ill and died. And while his body was lying lifeless, and the last rites were being prepared, amidst the weeping and mourning of all, one of the friends who were consoling the father suggested that the body should be anointed with the oil of the same martyr. It was done, and he revived.
Likewise Eleusinus, a man of tribunitian rank among us, laid his infant son, who had died, on the shrine of the martyr, which is in the suburb where he lived, and, after prayer, which he poured out there with many tears, he took up his child alive.
What am I to do? I am so pressed by the promise of finishing this work, that I cannot record all the miracles I know; and doubtless several of our adherents, when they read what I have narrated, will regret that I have omitted so many which they, as well as I, certainly know. Even now I beg these persons to excuse me, and to consider how long it would take me to relate all those miracles, which the necessity of finishing the work I have undertaken forces me to omit. For were I to be silent of all others, and to record exclusively the miracles of healing which were wrought in the district of Calama and of Hippo by means of this martyr— I mean the most glorious Stephen— they would fill many volumes; and yet all even of these could not be collected, but only those of which narratives have been written for public recital. For when I saw, in our own times, frequent signs of the presence of divine powers similar to those which had been given of old, I desired that narratives might be written, judging that the multitude should not remain ignorant of these things. It is not yet two years since these relics were first brought to Hippo-regius, and though many of the miracles which have been wrought by it have not, as I have the most certain means of knowing, been recorded, those which have been published amount to almost seventy at the hour at which I write. But at Calama, where these relics have been for a longer time, and where more of the miracles were narrated for public information, there are incomparably more.
At Uzali, too, a colony near Utica, many signal miracles were, to my knowledge, wrought by the same martyr, whose relics had found a place there by direction of the bishop Evodius, long before we had them at Hippo. But there the custom of publishing narratives does not obtain, or, I should say, did not obtain, for possibly it may now have been begun. For, when I was there recently, a woman of rank, Petronia, had been miraculously cured of a serious illness of long standing, in which all medical appliances had failed, and, with the consent of the above-named bishop of the place, I exhorted her to publish an account of it that might be read to the people. She most promptly obeyed, and inserted in her narrative a circumstance which I cannot omit to mention, though I am compelled to hasten on to the subjects which this work requires me to treat. She said that she had been persuaded by a Jew to wear next her skin, under all her clothes, a hair girdle, and on this girdle a ring, which, instead of a gem, had a stone which had been found in the kidneys of an ox. Girt with this charm, she was making her way to the threshold of the holy martyr. But, after leaving Carthage, and when she had been lodging in her own demesne on the river Bagrada, and was now rising to continue her journey, she saw her ring lying before her feet. In great surprise she examined the hair girdle, and when she found it bound, as it had been, quite firmly with knots, she conjectured that the ring had been worn through and dropped off; but when she found that the ring was itself also perfectly whole, she presumed that by this great miracle she had received somehow a pledge of her cure, whereupon she untied the girdle, and cast it into the river, and the ring along with it. This is not credited by those who do not believe either that the Lord Jesus Christ came forth from His mother's womb without destroying her virginity, and entered among His disciples when the doors were shut; but let them make strict inquiry into this miracle, and if they find it true, let them believe those others. The lady is of distinction, nobly born, married to a nobleman. She resides at Carthage. The city is distinguished, the person is distinguished, so that they who make inquiries cannot fail to find satisfaction. Certainly the martyr himself, by whose prayers she was healed, believed on the Son of her who remained a virgin; on Him who came in among the disciples when the doors were shut; in fine—and to this tends all that we have been retailing—on Him who ascended into heaven with the flesh in which He had risen; and it is because he laid down his life for this faith that such miracles were done by his means.
Even now, therefore, many miracles are wrought, the same God who wrought those we read of still performing them, by whom He will and as He will; but they are not as well known, nor are they beaten into the memory, like gravel, by frequent reading, so that they cannot fall out of mind. For even where, as is now done among ourselves, care is taken that the pamphlets of those who receive benefit be read publicly, yet those who are present hear the narrative but once, and many are absent; and so it comes to pass that even those who are present forget in a few days what they heard, and scarcely one of them can be found who will tell what he heard to one who he knows was not present.
One miracle was wrought among ourselves, which, though no greater than those I have mentioned, was yet so signal and conspicuous, that I suppose there is no inhabitant of Hippo who did not either see or hear of it, none who could possibly forget it. There were seven brothers and three sisters of a noble family of the Cappadocian Cæsarea, who were cursed by their mother, a new-made widow, on account of some wrong they had done her, and which she bitterly resented, and who were visited with so severe a punishment from Heaven, that all of them were seized with a hideous shaking in all their limbs. Unable, while presenting this loathsome appearance, to endure the eyes of their fellow-citizens, they wandered over almost the whole Roman world, each following his own direction. Two of them came to Hippo, a brother and a sister, Paulus and Palladia, already known in many other places by the fame of their wretched lot. Now it was about fifteen days before Easter when they came, and they came daily to church, and specially to the relics of the most glorious Stephen, praying that God might now be appeased, and restore their former health. There, and wherever they went, they attracted the attention of every one. Some who had seen them elsewhere, and knew the cause of their trembling, told others as occasion offered. Easter arrived, and on the Lord's day, in the morning, when there was now a large crowd present, and the young man was holding the bars of the holy place where the relics were, and praying, suddenly he fell down, and lay precisely as if asleep, but not trembling as he was wont to do even in sleep. All present were astonished. Some were alarmed, some were moved with pity; and while some were for lifting him up, others prevented them, and said they should rather wait and see what would result. And behold! he rose up, and trembled no more, for he was healed, and stood quite well, scanning those who were scanning him. Who then refrained himself from praising God? The whole church was filled with the voices of those who were shouting and congratulating him. Then they came running to me, where I was sitting ready to come into the church. One after another they throng in, the last comer telling me as news what the first had told me already; and while I rejoiced and inwardly gave God thanks, the young man himself also enters, with a number of others, falls at my knees, is raised up to receive my kiss. We go in to the congregation: the church was full, and ringing with the shouts of joy, Thanks to God! Praised be God! every one joining and shouting on all sides, I have healed the people, and then with still louder voice shouting again. Silence being at last obtained, the customary lessons of the divine Scriptures were read. And when I came to my sermon, I made a few remarks suitable to the occasion and the happy and joyful feeling, not desiring them to listen to me, but rather to consider the eloquence of God in this divine work. The man dined with us, and gave us a careful ac count of his own, his mother's, and his family's calamity. Accordingly, on the following day, after delivering my sermon, I promised that next day I would read his narrative to the people. And when I did so, the third day after Easter Sunday, I made the brother and sister both stand on the steps of the raised place from which I used to speak; and while they stood there their pamphlet was read. The whole congregation, men and women alike, saw the one standing without any unnatural movement, the other trembling in all her limbs; so that those who had not before seen the man himself saw in his sister what the divine compassion had removed from him. In him they saw matter of congratulation, in her subject for prayer. Meanwhile, their pamphlet being finished, I instructed them to withdraw from the gaze of the people; and I had begun to discuss the whole matter somewhat more carefully, when lo! as I was proceeding, other voices are heard from the tomb of the martyr, shouting new congratulations. My audience turned round, and began to run to the tomb. The young woman, when she had come down from the steps where she had been standing, went to pray at the holy relics, and no sooner had she touched the bars than she, in the same way as her brother, collapsed, as if falling asleep, and rose up cured. While, then, we were asking what had happened, and what occasioned this noise of joy, they came into the basilica where we were, leading her from the martyr's tomb in perfect health. Then, indeed, such a shout of wonder rose from men and women together, that the exclamations and the tears seemed like never to come to an end. She was led to the place where she had a little before stood trembling. They now rejoiced that she was like her brother, as before they had mourned that she remained unlike him; and as they had not yet uttered their prayers in her behalf, they perceived that their intention of doing so had been speedily heard. They shouted God's praises without words, but with such a noise that our ears could scarcely bear it. What was there in the hearts of these exultant people but the faith of Christ, for which Stephen had shed his blood?
In the year 1679 the house of William Morse at Newberry was infested with daemons after a most horrid manner, not altogether unlike the daemons of Tedworth. It would fill many pages to relate all the infestations, but the chief of them were such as these:
Bricks and sticks and stones were often, by some invisible hand, thrown at the house, and so were many pieces of wood; a cat was thrown at the woman of the house and a long staff danced up and down in the chimney. Afterwards, the same long staff was hanged by a line and swung to and fro, and when two persons laid it on the fire to burn it, it was as much as they were able to do with their joint strength to hold it there.
An iron crook was violently, by an invisible hand, hurled about, and a chair flew about the room until at last it lit upon the table where the meat stood ready to be eaten and had spoiled it all, if the people had not with much ado saved a little.
A chest was, by an invisible hand, carried from one place to another, and the doors barricaded, and the keys of the family taken -- some of them from the bunch where they were tied and the rest flying about with a loud noise of their knocking against one another.
For one while the the folks of the house could not sup quietly, but ashes would be thrown into their suppers and on their heads and their clothes; the shoes of one man being left below, one of them was filled with ashes and coals and thrown up after him.
When they were abed, a stone weighing about three pounds was divers times thrown upon them. A box and a board was likewise thrown upon them, and a bag of hops, being taken out a chest, they were, by the invisible hand, beaten therewith 'til some of the hops were scattered on the floor, where the bag was then laid and left.
The man was often struck by that hand with several instruments, and the same hand cast their good things into the fire. Yea, while the man was at prayer with his household a beesom gave him a blow on his nead behind and fell down before his face. When they were winnowing their barley, dirt was thrown at them, and assaying to fill their half bushel with corn, the foul corn would be thrown in with the clean so irresistibly that they were forced thereby to give over what they were about.
While the man was writing his inkhorn was, by an invisible hand, snatched from him, and being able nowhere to find it, he saw it at length drop out of the air down by the fire. A shoe was laid upon his shoulder, but when he would have catched it, it was rapt from him. It was then clapped upon his head, and there he held it so fast that the unseen fury pulled him with it backward on the floor. He had his cap torn off his head, and in the night he was pulled by the hair and pinched and scratched and the invisible hand pricked him with some of his awls and with needles and bodkins, and blows that fetched blood were sometimes given him. Frozen clods of cow dung were often thrown at the man, and his wife, going to milk the cows, they could by no means preserve the vessels of milk from the like annoyances, which made it fit only for the hogs.
She going down into the cellar, the trapdoor was immediately, by an invisible hand, shut upon her and a tbale brought and laid upon the door, which kept her there until the man removed it.
When he was writing another time, a dish went and leapt into a pail and cast water on the man and on all the concerns before him so as to defeat what he was then upon. His cap jumped off his head and on again, and the pot lid went off the pot into the kettle, then over the fire together.
A little boy belonging to the family was a principle sufferer in these molestations, for he was flung about at such a rate that they feared his brains would have been beaten out; nor did they find it possible to hold him. His bedclothes were pulled from him, his bed shaken, and his bedstaff leap forward and backward. The man took him to keep him in a chair, but the chair fell a-dancing and both of them were very near being thrown into the fire.
These, and a thousand such vexations, befalling the boy at home, they carried him to live abroad at a doctor's. There he was quiet, but returning home he suddenly cried out he was pricked on the back, where they found strangely sticking a three-tined fork which belonged unto the doctor and had been seen at his house after the boy's departure. Afterwards, his troublers found him out at the doctor's also where, crying out again he was pricked on the back, they found an iron spindle stuck into him, and on the like cry out again they found pins in a paper stuck into him, and once more a long iron, a bowl of a spoon, and a piece of panshred in like stuck upon him. He was taken out of his bed and thrown under it, and all the knives belonging to the house were, one after another, stuck into his back, which the spectators pulled out, only one of them seemed unto the spectators to come out of his mouth. The poor boy was divers times thrown into the fire and preserved from scorching there with much ado. For a long while he barked like a dog, and then he clucked like a hen and could not speak rationally. His tongue would be pulled out of his mouth, but when he could recover it so far as to speak he complained that a man called P----l appeared unto him as the cause of all.
Once, in the daytime, he was transported where none could find him, 'til at last they found him creeping on one side and sadly dumb and lame. When he was able to express himself he said that P----l had carried him over the top of the house and hurled him against a cartwheel in the barn, and accordingly they found some remainders of the threshed barley, which was on the barn floor, hanging about his garments.
The spectre would make all his meat, when he was going to eat, fly out of his mouth and instead thereof make him fall to eating of ashes and sticks and yarn. The man and his wife, taking the boy to bed with them, a chamber pot and its contents was thrown upon them; they were severely pinched and pulled out of the bed, and many other fruits of devilish spite were they dogged withal until it please God mercifully to shorten the chain of the devil. But before the devil was chained up, the invisible hand, which did all these things, began to put on an astonishing visibility.
They often thought they felt the hand that scratched them, while yet they saw it not; but when they thought they had hold of it, it would give them the slip. Once, the fist beating the man was discernible, but they could not catch hold of it. At length an apparition of a Blackamoor child showed itself plainly to them, and another time a drumming on the boards was heard, which was followed with a voice that sang, "Revenge! Revenge! Sweet is revenge!" At this, the people, being terrified, called upon God, whereupon there followed a mournful note several times uttering these expressions:
"Alas! Alas! We knock no more, we knock no more!" and there was an end of all.
On June 11, 1682, showers of stone were thrown by an invisible hand upon the house of George Walton at Portsmouth. Whereupon the people going out found the gate wrung off the hinges and stones flying and falling thick about them and striking of them seemingly with a great force, but really effected 'em no more than if a soft touch were given them.
The glass windows were broken to pieces by stones that came not from without but from from within, and other instruments were in like manner hurled about. Nine of the stones they took up, whereof some were as hot as if they came out of the fire, and, marking them, they laid them on the table, but in a little while they found some of them again flying about.
The spit was carried up the chimney and, coming down with the point forward, stuck in the back-log from whence one of the company, removing it, it was, by an invisible hand, thrown out at the window.
This disturbance continued from day to day and sometimes a dismal, hollow whistling would be heard, and sometimes the trotting and snorting of a horse, but nothing to be seen.
The man went up the great bay in a boat unto a farm he had there, but there the stones found him out, and carrying from the house to the boat a stirrup-iron, the iron came jingling after him through the woods as far as his house and at last went away and was heard of no more. The anchor leaped overboard several times and stopped the boat.
A cheese was taken out of the press and crumbled all over the floor; a piece of iron stuck in the wall and a kettle hung thereupon. Several cocks of hay, mowed near the house, were taken up and hung upon the trees, and others made into small whisps and scattered about the house.
The man was much hurt by some of the stones. He was a Quaker and suspected that a woman, who charged him with injustice in detaining some land from her, did by withcraft occasion these preternatural occurrences.
However, at last, they came unto an end.
Four children of John Goodwin, in Boston, which had enjoyed a religious education, and answered it with a towardly ingenuity--children, indeed, of an exemplary temper and carriage, and an example to all about then for piety, honesty, and industry--were, in the year 1868, arrested by a very stupendous witchcraft.
The eldest of the children--a daughter of about thirteen years old--saw cause to examine the laundress, the daughter of a scandalous Irish woman in the neighborhood, about some linen that was missing, and the woman bestowed very bad language on the child, in her daughter's defense, [after which] the child was immediately taken with odd fits that carried in them something diabolical.
It was not long before one of her sisters, with two of her brothers, were horribly taken with the like fits, which the most experienced physicians pronounced extraordinary and preternatural: One thing that the more confirmed them in this opinion was that all the children were tormented [in] the same part of their bodies, at the same time, tho' their pains flew like swift lightning from one part unto another, and they were kept so far asunder that they neither saw nor heard one another's complaints. At 9 or 10 a-clock at night they had a release from their miseries and slept all night pretty comfortably. But when the day came, they were most miserably handled.
Sometimes they were deaf, sometimes dumb, sometimes blind, and often all this at once. Their tongues would be drawn down their throats and then pulled out upon their chins to a prodigious length. Their mouths were forc'd open to such a wideness that their jaws went out of joint, and anon clap together again with a force like that of a spring lock, and the like would happen to their shoulder blades and their elbows and hand wrists and several of their joints. They would lie in a benumbed condition and be drawn together like those that are ty'd neck and heels, and presently be stretched out--yea, drawn back enormously. They made piteous outcries that they were cut with knives and struck with blows, and the plain prints of the wounds were seen upon them. Their necks would be broken so that their neckbone would seem dissolved unto them that felt after it, and yet, on the sudden, it would become again so stiff that there was no stirring of their heads. Yea, their heads would be twisted almost round, and if the main force of their friends at any time obstructed a dangerous motion which them seemed upon, they would roar exceedingly. And when devotions were performed with them, their hearing was utterly taken from them.
[When] the ministers of Boston and Charlestown, [kept] a day of prayer with fasting, on this occasion, at the troubled house, the youngest of the four children was immediately, happily, finally delivered from all its trouble. But the magistrates, being awakened by the noise of these grievous and horrid occurrences, examined the person who was under the suspicion of having employed these troublesome daemons, and she gave such a wretched account of herself that she was committed unto the [jailer's] custody.
It was not long before this woman (whose name was Glover) was brought upon her trial, but then the court could have no answers from her but in the Irish, which was her native language, although she understood English very well and had accustomed her whole family to none but English in her former conversation. When she pleaded to her indictment, it was with owning and bragging rather than denial of her guilt. And the interpreters, by whom the communication between the bench and the barr was managed, were made sensible that a spell had been laid by another witch on this to prevent her telling tales by confining her to a language which 'twas hoped nobody would understand.
The woman's house being searched, several images (or poppets) or babies made of rags and stuffed with goats' hair were thence produced, and the vile woman confessed that her way to torment the objects of her malice was by wetting her finger with spittle and stroaking [the] little images.
The abused children were then present in the court [and] the woman kept stooping and shrinking as one that was almost prest unto death with a mighty weight upon her. But, one of the images being brought unto her, she oddly and swiftly started up and snatched it into her hand, but she had no sooner snatched it than one of the children fell into sad fits before the whole assembly. The judges had their just apprehension at this, and carefully causing a repition of the experiment, they still found the same event of it, tho' the children saw not when the hand of the witch was laid upon the images.
They asked her "whether she had any to stand by her?" She replied she had and, looking very pertly into the air, she added, "No, he's gone!" and then she acknowledged that she had one, who was her prince, with whom she mentioned I know not what communion. For which cause, the night after, she was heard expostulating with a devil for his thus deserting her, telling him that because he had served her so basely and falsely, she had confessed all.
However, to make all clear, the court appointed five or six physicians to examine her very strictly, whether she was no way crazed in her intellectuals. Divers hours did they spend with her, and in all that while, no discourse came from her but what was agreeable, particularly when they asked her what she thought of her soul she replied, "You ask me a very solemn question and I cannot tell what to say to it." She profest herself a Roman Catholic and could recite her Pater-noster in Latin very readily, but there was one clause or two very hard for her, whereof she said she could not repeat if she "might have all the world."
In the upshot, the doctors returned her compos mentis and sentence of death was passed upon her. Divers days past between her being arraigned and condemned and in this time one Hughes testified that her neighbor (called Howen), who was cruelly bewitched unto death about six years before, laid her death to the charge of this woman and bid her (the said Hughes) to remember this, for within six years their would be occasion to mention it.
One of Hughes' children was presently taken ill in the same woeful manner that Goodwin's was, and particularly the boy, in the night, cried out that a black person with a blue cap in the room tortured him and that they tried with their hand in the bed for to pull out his bowels.
The mother of the boy went unto Glover the day following and asked her why she tortured the poor lad at such a rate. Glover answered, "Because of the wrong [I] had received from [you]" and boasted that she had come at him as a black person with a blue cap and, with her hand in the bed, would have pulled his bowels out, but could not. Hughes denied that she had wronged her, and Glover, then desiring to see the boy, wished him well, upon which he had no more of his indispositions.
On one occasion a poor woman gave two pence, adding, "It is but a trifle, but I must give it to you." Yet so opportune was the gift of these "two mites" that one of these two pence was just what was at that time needed to make up the sum required to buy bread for immediate use. At another time eight pence more being necessary to provide for the next meal, but seven pence were in hand; but on opening one of the boxes, one penny only was found deposited, and thus a single penny was traced to the Father's care.
During this four months, on March 9, 1842, the need was so extreme that, had no help come, the work could not have gone on. But, on that day, from a brother living near Dublin, ten pounds came: and the hand of the Lord clearly appeared in this gift, for when the post had already come and no letter had come with it, there was a strong confidence suggested to Mr. Müller's mind that deliverance was at hand; and so it proved, for presently the letter was brought to him, having been delivered at one of the other houses. During this same month, it was necessary once to delay dinner for about a half-hour, because of a lack of supplies. Such a postponement had scarcely ever been known before, and very rarely was it repeated in the entire after-history of the work, though thousands of mouths had to be daily fed.
During this period of patient waiting, Mr. Müller remarked to a believing sister:
"Well, my soul is at peace. The Lord's time is not yet come; but, when it is come, He will blow away all these obstacles, as chaff is blown away before the wind."
A quarter of an hour later, a gift of seven hundred pounds became available for the ends in view, so that three of the five hindrances to this Continental tour were at once removed. All travelling expenses for himself and wife, all necessary funds for the home work for two months in advance, and all costs of publishing the Narrative in German, were now provided. This was on July 12th; and so soon afterward were the remaining impediments out of the way that, by August 9th, Mr. and Mrs. Müller were off for Germany.
After October, 1845, it became clear to Mr. Müller that the Lord was leading in this direction. Residents on Wilson Street had raised objections to the noise made by the children, especially in play hours; the playgrounds were no longer large enough for so many orphans; the drainage was not adequate, nor was the situation of the rented houses favourable, for proper sanitary conditions; it was also desirable to secure ground for cultivation, and thus supply outdoor work for the boys, etc. Such were some of the reasons which seemed to demand the building of a new orphan house; and the conviction steadily gained ground that the highest well-being of all concerned would be largely promoted if a suitable site could be found on which to erect a building adapted to the purpose.
There were objections to building which were carefully weighed: money in large sums would be needed; planning and constructing would severely tax time and strength; wisdom and oversight would be in demand at every stage of the work; and the question arose whether such permanent structures befit God's pilgrim people, who have here no continuing city and believe that the end of all things is at hand.
On the thirty-sixth day after specific prayer had first been offered about this new house, on December 10, 1845, Mr. Müller received one thousand pounds for this purpose, the largest sum yet received in one donation since the work had begun, March 5, 1834. Yet he was as calm and composed as though the gift had been only a shilling; having full faith in God, as both guiding and providing, he records that he would not have been surprised had the amount been five or ten times greater.
Three days later, a Christian architect in London voluntarily offered not only to draught the plans, but gratuitously to superintend the building! This offer had been brought about in a manner so strange as to be naturally regarded as a new sign and proof of God's approval and a fresh pledge of His sure help. Mr. Müller's sister-in-law, visiting the metropolis, had met this architect; and, finding him much interested to know more of the work of which he had read in the narrative, she had told him of the purpose to build; whereupon, without either solicitation or expectation on her part, this cheerful offer was made. Not only was this architect not urged by her, but he pressed his proposal, himself, urged on by his deep interest in the orphan work. Thus, within forty days, the first thousand pounds had been given in answer to prayer, and a pious man, as yet unseen and unknown by Mr. Müller, had been led to offer his services in providing plans for the new building and superintending its erection.
When, for three years, scarlet and typhus fevers and smallpox, being prevalent in Bristol and the vicinity, threatened the orphans, prayer was again made to Him who is the God of health as well as of rain. There was no case of scarlet or typhus fever during the whole time, though smallpox was permitted to find an entrance into the smallest of the orphan houses. Prayer was still the one resort. The disease spread to the other houses, until at one time fifteen were ill with it. The cases, however, were mercifully light, and the Lord was besought to allow the epidemic to spread no further. Not another child was taken; and when, after nine months, the disease altogether disappeared, not one child had died of it, and only one teacher or adult had had an attack, and that was very mild. What ravages the disease might have made among the twelve hundred inmates of these orphan houses, had it then prevailed as later, in 1872!
During the next year, 1865-6, scarlet fever broke out in the orphanage. In all thirty-nine children were ill, but Whooping-cough also made its appearance; but though, during that season, it was not only very prevalent but very malignant in Bristol, in all the three houses there were but seventeen cases, and the only fatal one was that of a little girl with constitutionally weak lungs.
Again, when, in 1866, cholera developed in England, in answer to special prayer not one case of this disease was known in the orphan houses; and when, in the autumn, whooping-cough and measles broke out, though eight children had the former and two hundred and sixty-two, the latter, not one child died, or was afterward debilitated by the attack. From May, 1866, to May, 1867, out of over thirteen hundred children under care, only eleven died, considerably less than one per cent.
At one meeting at Huntly, by special request Mr. Müller gave illustrations of God's faithfulness in answer to prayer, connected with the orphan work, of which the following are examples:
a. He stated that at various times, not only at the beginning of the work, but also in later years, God had seen fit to try his faith to the utmost, but only to prove to him the more definitely that He would never be other than his faithful covenant-keeping God. In illustration he referred to a time when, the children having had their last meal for the day, there was nothing left in money or kind for their breakfast the following morning. Mr. Müller went home, but nothing came in, and he retired for the night, committing the need to God to provide. Early the next morning he went for a walk, and while praying for the needed help he took a turn into a road which he was quite unconscious of, and after walking a short distance a friend met him, and said how glad he was to meet him, and asked him to accept £5 for the orphans. He thanked him, and without saying a word to the donor about the time of need, he went at once to the orphan houses, praising God for this direct answer to prayer.
b. On another occasion, when there were no funds in hand to provide breakfast for the orphans, a gentleman called before the time for breakfast and left a donation that supplied all their present needs. When that year's report was issued, this proof of God's faithfulness in sending help just when needed was recorded, and a short time after the donor called and made himself known, saying that as his donation had been given at such a special time of need he felt he must state the circumstances under which he had given the money, which were as follows:
He had occasion to go to his office in Bristol early that morning before breakfast, and on the way the thought occurred to him:
"I will go to Mr. Müller's orphan house and give them a donation,"
and accordingly turned and walked about a quarter of a mile toward the orphanage, when he stopped, saying to himself,
"How foolish of me to be neglecting the business I came out to attend to! I can give money to the orphans another time,"
and he turned round and walked back towards his office, but soon felt that he must return. He said to himself:
"The orphans may be needing the money now. I'm leaving them in want when God had sent me to help them;"
and so strong was this impression that he again turned round and walked back till he reached the orphanages, and thus handed in the money which provided them with breakfast. Mr. Müller's comment on this was:
"Just like my gracious heavenly Father!"
and then urged his hearers to trust and prove what a faithful covenant-keeping God He is to those who put their trust in Him.
In the records of witchcraft, or magic, or sorcery, as I have studied them throughout the contingent of Europe, in Spain and Russian, in England and Italy, one finds oneself confronted, not once or twice, but literally as whole, systematically and homogeneously, with the same beliefs, the same facts, the same extraordinary happenings, unexplained and (sofar as we know today) inexplicable…When I read Mr. Kaigh’s Witchcraft and Magic of Africa I find myself continually paralleling what he relates with the pages of such writers as Heinrich Kramer (d. 1508) and James Sprenger (1436-1495); Jerome Cardan (1501-76); Johann Weyer (1515-88); Jean Bodin (1530-96); Pierre de Loyer (1550-1634); Martin Delrio S. J. (1551-1608); Joseph Glanvil (1636-80); Ludovici Maria Sinistrari (1622-1701); Johann Joseph von Gorres (1776-1848): and a score beside. All these tell of the same phenomena as Mr. Kaigh has known and witnessed today.
M. Summers, “Forward,” F. Kaigh, Witchcraft and Magic of Africa (Richard Lesley 1947), viii.
One night I saw the Jackal Dance…Suddenly a powerful young man and a splendid young girl, completely naked, leapt over the heads of the onlookers and fell sprawling the clearing.
They sprang up again instantly and started to dance…If the dance of the nyanga was horrible, this was revolting. They danced the dance of the rutting jackals. As the dance progressed, their imitations became more and more animal…Then, in a twinkling, with loathing unbounded, and incredulous amazement, I saw these two turn into jackals before my very eyes.
F. Kaigh, Witchcraft and Magic of Africa (Richard Lesley 1947), 32.
I met my friend Gregg F. in 1976, while we were both still in elementary school. Having a mutual interest in music, we formed a rock band in 1979, our last year in junior high school. It was around this time that we met Devin D. Devin played guitar and shared our interest in the same kind of music. The three of us became close friends and remained so even after graduating from junior high school and attending separate high schools.
Apparitional Experiences and Other Unusual Phenomena
In the summer of 1981, now in our sophomore year in high school, Gregg, Devin, and I began holding séance sessions. While most teenagers dabble in this sort of thing out of boredom, our approach was more seriously motivated. We had a growing curiosity about psychical phenomena (what we called “the supernatural”) and the survival of death. While Greg had a mild curiosity about these issues, Devin had a more intense interest, speaking frequently of reincarnation, telepathy, and discarnate personalities. My interest was personally motivated. My grandmother, who died two years prior, had told me often that she would attempt to make contact with me after she died, to tell me about the afterlife. Nearly two years had passed since her death and I had not heard from her. I formulated a tentative hypothesis that if she had indeed survived death perhaps communicating with the living wasn’t as easy as she had assumed it would be and that I should try to lend her some assistance by trying to make contact with her.
My fascination with the survival question was deepened by my mother’s account of an apparitional experience of my deceased grandfather in our house, a few days before my grandmother died in the summer of 1979. While sitting under a hairdryer in the kitchen, with my dad but a few feet away from her in the living room, my mother suddenly noticed someone standing to her right, in the doorway to the kitchen, about eight feet away from where she was seated. After she quickly turned her head, she saw what we later described to me as my grandfather, dressed and looking as he did while alive. He initially appeared as solid as a physical body. He said nothing, though she sensed he was trying to communicate with her telepathically, telling her that everything would be all right. The entire experience lasted only about 15 seconds, at which time he dematerialized in front of her, in a way resembling the partial dematerialization of persons in the transporter machine in the original Star Trek series.
It is worth noting that my grandmother has an apparitional experience of the same grandfather shortly after he died in 1972. My grandmother’s experience was similar to my mother’s. My grandfather was dressed the same way in each of their experiences. The apparition manifested itself in the nearest doorway during a time when the perceivers were in a highly relaxed state. In each case, after appearing for about 15 seconds, they witnessed the apparition dematerialize before their eyes. While the perceivers in each case reported being initially startled by the apparition (and frightened after the experience), they each reported a sense of calm emanating from the apparition, as if it were communicating telepathically with them. My mother never knew about my grandmother’s experience until after my mother’s apparitional experience.
In addition to my curiosity about survival, my diary from the two months prior to summer mentioned some “unusual” occurrences in my household, which seemed to have prompted my excursion into psychical phenomena at this particular time. First, a cross on a necklace I had been wearing disappeared in a way I considered mysterious. I went to bed with it on, but when I awoke in the morning the cross was gone, though the chain remained around my neck. (The cross would be found several months later under a chair in a different location in the house). Secondly, I believed that I had been having precognitive experiences during my dream states. One recurring experience was dreams of earthquakes that would actually occur locally within a day of the dreams. This happened three or four times. These incidents, together with my mother’s apparitional experience, generated a sustained interest in the paranormal.
The Seance Sessions
Devin, Gregg, and I started holding séance sessions in June 1981. My parents were often away on weekends and Devin and Gregg would spend the weekend or portion thereof at my house. We kept ourselves occupied with guitar playing and movie watching, as well as typical teenage high jinx. When these had run their course, we would pull out the ouija board and begin trying to contact the spirit world. Our séance sessions were almost always conducted using the ouija board, with lights out and candles lit. In some instances, the sessions were held during the day, and then we had natural sunlight, dimmed with blankets or sheets over the windows.
Our efforts early on had no results. This wasn’t terribly surprising since we lacked sufficient seriousness and focus at the time. We were often flying by the seat of our pants. We tried to set the mood with the appropriate films or discussions. We even tried to generate genuine phenomena by artificially creating effects. Sometimes these were as minor as bumping or shaking the table during a sitting. In some cases we perpetuated a larger scale hoax. Devin and I pulled off such a hoax on Gregg in early July, with artifactual physical phenomena ranging from moving objects to mysterious writing appearing on objects. The hoax was so effective that we had to disclose our trickery to keep Gregg from fleeing the house. Later that night we attempted some serious sittings, some of which were recorded on audiotape. We experienced some unusual sparks from the candle at points, which seemed responsive to our line of questioning, though the planchette did not move very much. There was also a strange voice that appeared on a portion of the audio recording when I played it back later. But these phenomena were ambiguous at best.
Although our séance sessions became more serious in late July and early August 1981, the sittings still failed to achieve any unambiguous results. We would get periodic flashes or sparks from the flame on candles. While these seemed responsive to our questions, we concluded that they were probably more a matter of coincidence. We drew the same conclusion about creaking and popping sounds in the walls of the house. We were looking for something obviously paranormal. Nothing like that occurred during what probably amounted to a couple dozen sessions.
In mid-August we changed things up a bit. Instead of the three of us, I conducted the sessions with just Devin. Devin seemed to have a more serious interest in psychical phenomena than Gregg, and Devin had suggested that perhaps Gregg’s presence was presenting an obstacle to genuine results, especially since his interest was inconsistent. So we began conducting sittings without Gregg. It was then that we had results.
Devin and I held multiple sittings in the garage at my house, not the kitchen as we had done earlier. We used a fairly robust heavy table, about six feet long and two feet wide, with a red felt top. The legs were foldout double legs made of metal, securely bolted to the tabletop, which was out of two sheets of thick plywood. The table’s height made it possible for us to see each other’s leg’s under the table and equally difficult for our knees to make contact with the under portion of the table top. The table was inspected before we started. As before, we utilized the ouija board. The sittings were held during the day. The lights were turned off and we used two candles, though we also had some natural sunlight we managed to dim by placing a thin blanket over the garage window.
After about 20 minutes into our sitting we made contact with a man who referred to himself as Paul Langster. He lived in the 18th century in England and was killed by someone named Asmostis. Paul answered most of our questions through the movement of the ouija planchette. The answers were sometimes intelligible and responsive to our questions. At other times, the responses were not so intelligible, a lot of nonsensical ramblings. However, Paul said that we could speak with Asmostis if we liked. And so we did. Spelling out the appropriate responses, Asmostis rather quickly indicated that he was present. But the responses were highly negative in character. For example, upon asking Asmostis to prove himself to us, he replied, “Come to hell and I will show you my powers.” His other answers indicated that Asmostis was in fact a demon and Paul Langster was enslaved to Asmostis, the result of having sold his soul to the devil. Asmostis explained that like Paul we had opened a door to the other side, a door we could not close. Asmostis also took the credit for taking my cross.
We ended our session and tried to find some information about Asmostis in my father’s large collection of encyclopedia of the supernatural. The nearest match we could find was Asmodeus, the demon of lust and power (associated with Assyria, coincidentally or not, the land of my ancestors), also regarded as an agent responsible for the breakup of relationships. When we returned we asked whether Asmostis was Asmodeus. The answer was yes.
I was not entirely convinced that Devin was not intentionally moving the planchette, so I continued to dare Asmostis to show himself or demonstrate his reality. After several minutes of taunting, the left end of the table lifted in the air a couple of inches and then fell to the ground. It was clear to me that Devin could not have moved the table. Since Devin was seated directly across from me, with his legs visible and both hands on the top of the table, lifting the end of the table would have been impossible without this being visible to me. Having perpetuated a hoax on our friend Gregg a couple of months earlier, we could tell that this was an altogether different phenomenon.
It is significant that the sitting took place at my own house without advance planning. The table was my parents’ table and we both inspected it, before and after the events. No one else was in my house at the time of the sitting. It is implausible to suppose that the table was rigged in any way.
Although the anomalous table movement was startling, we continued with the session. We asked Asmostis various questions the answers to which only one us (Devin or I) knew, questions about our family, family trips, details about our hobbies, and so on. Most of the answers were correct, which convinced me that I could exclude the possibility that Devin was engaging in trickery of some sort. He was likewise convinced that I was not pulling his leg. We then proceeded to ask questions that neither one of us knew the answer to but which we could verify. Here the results were not as accurate, but still impressive. The planchette correctly spelled out the names of some unusual contents of my refrigerator, despite my belief that these items were not in the refrigerator, but subsequent investigation showed that they were. For example, the planchette spelled out TEA. I thought this was odd, but we later found a jug of tea located in the back of the refrigerator, hidden behind other items. This was not an item normally in my refrigerator.
When we had returned to the table, after verifying several of Asmostis’ claims, we noticed that one of the candles on the table, which had gone out after burning to the bottom, was relit. We thought this odd since both of us took note of the candle going out ten minutes or so earlier. (Neither one of us were out of each other’s sight at any point between leaving the garage and returning). After physically examining the candle, we concluded that it burned out naturally after reaching the base of the candle. There was nothing paranormal about this. However, upon returning, the candle was relit and continued to burn for several minutes with a stub of a wick. Devin said that perhaps this was a sign that we should continue with the séance.
After resuming, I began immediately to ask for a demonstration of Asmostis’ presence and power. The table lifted again. This time higher and more forcefully than the first time, perhaps about four to five inches. It jerked around in the air for a few seconds and then fell to the ground. Again it was, from my position, the left side of the table that levitated. This incident was quite disconcerting and we ran out of the garage. We returned about ten minutes later to clean up. I placed the ouija board in a bag on the side of my house, where it stayed for several days until Devin retrieved it.
In the days that followed, Devin and I both experienced a range of anomalous phenomena.
A few days after the sessions, Devin called me in the morning and said that some strange things were happening in his house and that he needed to leave immediately. He asked to come over to my house. After he arrived, Devin explained that he woke up to the sound of scratching under his bed, but believing it was his dog he ignored it. He then heard his dog bark in the garage and knew immediately that it couldn’t be his dog. After jumping up out of bed, he headed for the kitchen where he “heard” his parents’ voices. When he entered the kitchen, no one was there. He then heard the sound of the shower in the master bedroom. Thinking his parents were there, he headed toward their room, only to find that they were not there. The shower sound stopped just before he reached their room. He inspected the shower and found it wet and the showerhead dripping, as if it had just been turned off.
I had a string of similar experiences, from scratching, knocks, and raps in the walls to the sound of doors and cabinets shutting, glasses rattling, and plates moving about in the kitchen, though no one else was home. I never saw any anomalous movement of these objects, though I had inferred in several instances that doors had indeed shut and objects had been displaced. During this time, my parents were becoming increasingly agitated about personal items suddenly missing and later turning up in strange places. Electrical equipment was also malfunctioning. There were also times when I woke up in the middle of the night and believed I saw a dark apparitional figure in my room, either in the corner or hovering near the ceiling. Devin and Gregg were both witnesses to some of these anomalous events at my house. At one point, Gregg refused to visit me at my house since he found the events quite disconcerting.
The events died out after a few months and only returned sporadically during the next year and a half. In February Gregg and I, along with a new friend Robert, attempted a few séances, but these were wholly unsuccessful in producing any physical phenomena. In the summer of 1982 Devin and I tried to resurrect physical phenomena by producing artifactual effects by means of another large-scale hoax, this time on a group of five. In part we wanted others to experience what we had experienced and we knew that genuine phenomena occurred the year prior after we had engaged in fakery. The hoax was again successful but more dramatic than the first hoax. It involved flying glasses, moving plates, faucets mysteriously turning on in plain view of the sitters, and disembodied voices speaking to individual sitters.
It is worth noting that during these sittings there were some phenomena that were not part of the plan and which would not have been produced by Devin’s covert operations. The table seemed to vibrate occasionally and there was a cold breeze across the table at times. These unintended effects created a more dramatic séance environment. Nothing was experienced of the magnitude of the séances in the summer of 1981.
I would not experience any systematic and frequent anomalous phenomena again until 2002, when as an adult I purchased an historic home in Windsor, Connecticut and experienced – along with my wife – events that exceeded in intensity the incidents during the summer of 1981. But sufficient for the day are the recollections thereof.
J. P. Moreland
Now the same thing takes place in specific answers to prayer. To illustrate, early in my ministry, while attending a seminar in Southern California, I heard a presentation on how to pray in a more specific way.
Knowing that in a few weeks, I would be returning to Colorado to start my ministry at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden with Ray Womack, a fellow Campus Crusade worker, I wrote a prayer request in my prayer notebook — a prayer which was known only to me. I began to pray specifically that God would provide for the two of us a white house that had a white picket fence, a grassy front yard, a close proximity to the campus (specifically, within two or three miles), and a monthly payment that was no more than $130.
I told the Lord that this request was a reasonable one on the grounds that (a) we wanted a place that provided a homey atmosphere for students, was accessible from campus and that we could afford, and (b) I was experimenting with specific prayer and wanted my faith to be strengthened.
I returned to the Golden area and looked for three days at several places to live. I found nothing in Golden and, in fact, I only found one apartment for $135/month about 12 miles from campus. I told the manager that I would take it and she informed me that a couple had looked at the place that morning and had until that afternoon to make a decision. If they didn't want it, then I could move in the next day.
I called late that afternoon and was informed that the couple took the apartment which was the last available one in the complex. I was back to square one. Now remember, not a single person knew that I had been praying for a white house.
That evening, Kaylon Carr (a Crusade friend) called me to ask if I still needed a place to stay. When I said yes, she informed me that earlier that day, she had been to Denver Seminary. While there, she saw a bulletin board on which a pastor in Golden was advertising a place to rent, hopefully to seminary students or Christian workers. Kaylon gave me his phone number, so I called and set up an appointment to meet the pastor at his place at nine the next morning. Well, as I drove up, I came to a white house with a white picket fence, a nice grassy front yard, right around two miles from campus, and he asked for $110 per month rent. Needless to say, I took it, and Ray and I had a home that year in which to minister.
This answer to prayer — along with hundreds of others that my Christian friends and I have seen — was an event that was (1) contingent and did not have to happen according to natural law; (2) very improbable; and (3) independently specifiable (a number of features of the event were specified in my prayer prior to and independent of the event itself taking place).
I have seen individuals expel strange and very long pins made of a substance resembling plastic or very flexible wood from the part that was targeted and immediately be released from pain…I have seen chucks of wood or iron, twisted wire, and dolls full of piercing and marks and have witnessed the sudden appearance of very thick braids of children or women’s hair.
G. Amorth, An Exorcist Tells His Story (Ignatius 1999), 134-35.
M. Scott Peck
I still did not know precisely when and why Beccah had become possessed. I knew that around age six she had developed an abnormal attraction to a book of woodcuts that told one version of the pact with the devil story.
The extraordinary amount of restraint required was one of the less remarkable features of the exorcism. The most remarkable was the change in the appearance of Beccah’s face and body. Except during break times and a few other occasions when Satan would seemingly be replaced by Beccah, she did not appear to be a human being at all. To everyone present, her entire face became like that of a snake. I would have expected it to be the usual kind of poisonous snake with a triangular head, but that was not the case. The head and face of this snake were remarkably round. The only exception to this roundness was its nostrils, which had a distinct snub-nosed look. Most remarkable of all were the eyes. They had become hooded.
During another appointment, again for but a minute, Beccah’s face appeared to be that of a very dry, thick-skinned, lizardlike creature—possibly an iguana. Definitely a reptile but nothing like a snake.
M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption (Free Press 2005), 173, 214-15, 225.
My powers as a black witch were great, and I added to my knowledge of evil every day. My ability to levitate four or five feet was very real. It was not a hoax. Demons aided me.
Killing birds in flight after they had been let loose from a cage was another act I performed as a witch. I could make objects appear and disappear. I also mastered apport, which is often used when witches demonstrate their powers before others.
D. Irvine, From Witchcraft to Christ (Life Journey 2007), 120.
I was seated across the table from a woman, no more than three feet away. And while we were talking, a small piece of gold-colored foil appeared suddenly on her face. I knew that her hands were nowhere near her face when this happened. In fact, I was certain they were in full view on the table the entire time. I knew also that if her husband, seated next to her, had placed the material on her face, I would have seen it clearly. But nobody’s hands had been any where near her face. So I knew that the material hadn’t been placed there; it appeared there, evidently without normal assistance.
This was one of several similar incidents that occurred during my most fascinating paranormal investigation: the case of a woman much of whose body–not must parts of her face–would break out in what looked like gold leaf.
The case of D. D. Home is very rich and merits much more attention than I can give it here…Other, and even more dramatic effects, include: The movement and complete levitation of large objects, including tables (sometimes with several people on top) and pianos. Earthquake effects. The entire room and its contents would rock or tremble. Supple, solid, warm, and mobile materialized hands, of different sizes, shapes, and colors, ending at the wrist, would carry objects, shake hands with the sitters, and then dissolve or melt in their grasp. The handling of hot coals.
S. Braude, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations (University of Chicago 2007), 1, 38-39.
There was a night when I fought with a demon trying to crush my chest–the experience felt absolutely real, and I was certainly awake, probably in a hypnagogic state. I could see and feel the demon sitting on me, preventing me from breathing, but when I “punched” it, it vanished. It is all the more remarkable that I have never believed in demons, and the creature I saw did not resemble anything I had ever seen or imagined before.
The Empty Tomb, J. Lowder & R. Price, eds. (Prometheus Books 2005), 185.
My aim is not to personally vouch for all of these examples. It’s the sort of thing you’d have to sift through, on a case-by-case basis, and apply the usual criteria in assessing testimonial evidence.
Likewise, this material raises a number of interpretive issues, some of which I’ve touched on before, and some of which I have opinions about, but haven’t had occasion to discuss.
My immediate point is that we have a tremendous amount of prima facie evidence, in time and place, which runs directly counter to the unquestioned premise of Carrier. What I’ve cited barely scratches the surface.