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The Phenomenon of Possession

The Phenomenon of Possession

By Lynne Campbell

Many people shudder when they hear the word ‘possession’, as it conjures up thoughts of frightening movies they have seen, stories they have read, reports they have heard from the media, or things they have been told within their family or friendship circles. In other words, ‘possession’ for a lot of people, is strongly connected to the negative, the demonic, and to death.

Movies such as “The Exorcist”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Lost Souls”, “The Last Exorcism”, “Paranormal Activity” (and coming soon…”Paranormal Activity 2″), “The Haunting of Molly Hartley”, and others, have effectively cemented this connection, particularly in North America.

“Possession” itself, is defined as: a : the act of having or taking into control b : control or occupancy of property without regard to ownership c : ownership d : control of the ball or puck; also : an instance of having such control (as in football)2 : something owned, occupied, or controlled : property 3 a : domination by something (as an evil spirit, a passion, or an idea) b : a psychological state in which an individual’s normal personality is replaced by another c : self-possession — pos·ses·sion·al adjective — pos·ses·sion·less adjective (

While there are several possible definitions given, people seem to focus on “domination by something (as an evil spirit…)”. This article aims to look at the possession phenomenon on a global scale, as well as nationally, and locally, in a broader sense in the hope that this information will help you to decide if possession is possible, if it is a negative or positive experience, if it is always connected to the demonic, and to ponder on the reasons for it’s occurance (why some people and not others; and why at all?)

The Global Phenomenon of Possession

In many cultures in other parts of the world, possession is looked upon as a religious experience, however, a positive one. Rituals and ceremonies that encourage participants to become temporaily possessed by animal spirits, is considered a completely natural process and a part of one’s spiritual journey. In Haiti, there are some traditions embraced by certain tribes that welcome this experience and, while the person possessed may not remember it, those watching the animal spirit moving through that person, look at it as an enlightening and positive event. There is no fear surrounding animal possession (something also embraced in Shamanism), and it seems to be revered.

Not all religions believe that animals have souls or spirits, so for the more traditional, conformist religions, this may still appear to be a terrifying, and evil thing. To various tribes around the globe, however, animal possession can be a right of passage, a way to receive wisdom, and a way to become stronger and gain protection from one’s enemies. It also reflects the connection between the people who embrace the experience and nature; the acceptance that all experiences help us to grow, become more enlightened spiritually, and to be closer to the creator(s).

What happens then, when one person is possessed by what seems to be either another person (their essence, spirit, or soul), or by something that seems to have certain traits that are beyond that which is ‘human’, and is not ‘animal’, as in lions, tigers, and bears? Does this actually happen, and if so, why? Who is chosen, and how? Can this type of possession be temporary, or is the only way to be released from it the ritual of Exorcism (also referred to as a Release, a Cleansing, and various other terms, dependant upon the culture and belief systems within it).

Non-Animal Possession

William Peter Blatty’s book “The Exorcist”, later made into one of the most frightening films on Demonic Possession in North America, was said to be based on a true event. In the actual case, the person possessed was a young boy rather than a young girl, and rather than him having been using a Ouija Board or Spirit Board on his own, there was some report that his aunt was involved in some Occult activities (Occult just means “hidden”, and Occult activities are not automatically negative; like anything else, it’s about the person practicing the activities and whether or not their energy and the energies they associate with are positive or negative). Whatever the connection was between the boy, his aunt, and her practices, it was said that she had been involving him in them (in what capacity, is uncertain). Whether or not that is why the events that followed occurred is also uncertain, but curious. The boy exhibited behaviors that led to the belief by some that he was possessed by the devil or by Satan (whatever your beliefs, this refers to the most negative energies you can imagine), and while Hollywood may have taken it up a notch for the movie with Linda Blaire, you get the idea with respect to some of what the boy’s behaviors and physical changes may have been like. At one time there was a book published about the boy’s story, complete with photographs of his contorted body. One photograph showed his neck so swollen and curved, that it can be rather overwhelming to imagine how a person could be in that state physically, and still be alive, able to breath, without a broken neck. So did the boy live? Yes. Was there an exorcism? Yes. Was it successful? Yes. Was the boy possessed by Satan, the devil, or demons? It is up to you, of course, to decide what you believe.

When “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was released in theatres, again, many people found it terrifying. This film was also said to be based on a true event and research has shown that there was a reported possession of a girl, by another name, that the movie drew some of it’s information from. The one thing that was different about this movie is that it finally attempted to address the ‘WHY’ behind the demonic possession of human beings. In the film, a Psychiatrist, and someone with additional credentials related to world religions, history, and spirituality, who had spent years studying this type of possession around the world, testifies at the trial of the Priest who had tried to exorcise the demons from Emily Rose, unsuccessfully, leading to her death. In an attempt to show that the failed exorcism was not due to the Priest’s negligence, the Vatican hires a well know attorney to defend him, and she calls upon this expert to verify that these experiences are possible and, finally in a film about demonic possession, asks her “Why” some people become possessed while others do not.

The expert explains that she believes some people, like Emily Rose, are “sensitives”, and so pure of heart that they would become Saints. She believed that this made them more open to demonic possession. This was an interesting theory to ponder and at least it was a theory and a possible explanation. She went on to say that she had seen this phenomenon around the world. She also drew upon both her medical and spiritual knowledge to explain that the reason the exorcism failed was because doctors had put Emily Rose on an Epilepsy Medication that put a part of her brain ‘to sleep’, and that part of the brain needed to be active for the exorcism to be successful. She confidently testified that Emily Rose’s death was directly related to her being given this medication (the doctors she had seen believed the contortions and other experiences she was having were due to a form of Epilepsy). Is it possible that this theory holds true in real life? At least it gives us something to consider.

Oujia Boards and Spirit Boards

Another theory about how people may become possessed by ‘evil’ spirits or demons, is that using a Ouija Board (also known as a Spirit Board), without knowing how to keep negative energies out when using it to communicate with those who have passed, and without wisdom with respect to negative forces, can lead to a person communicating with someone who they think they know or who they think is a positive spirit, when in fact it may be something ‘dark’ that is pretending to be that person in an attempt to ‘come through’ to this world or plane, by eventually taking possession of the user of the board. Is this possible? Parker Brothers still sells Ouija Boards in the toy/games departments of many stores you know of in your local malls; but is it just a game, or a dangerous tool that can lead to what happened to Linda Blaire’s character, “Raven”, in “The Exorcist”? Is it possible?

Do Demons and Devils Exist?

To answer the above questions, this question seems to be key: do such evil beings exist, and if so, what do they want of us? Do they want access to this world in an attempt to destroy it as an act against the creator(s), as is implied in the Christian Bible? Do they want to make themselves known to show that they do exist and that we should fear them? Is possession the only way they can cross over from their plane of existence into ours? Are people who do the unthinkable, the most horrible, heinous crimes, possessed? Are Serial Killers possessed? Is this why they have no feelings of remorse, regret, empathy, or conscience about the crimes they commit and the desire to commit them? Is this what drives them to commit such crimes, over and over and over again? Are people who come home one day and slaughter their entire families, when prior to that day, there did not appear to be any obvious sign of abnormal thinking or behaviour, possessed? Can severe mental illness and severe neurological disorders and dysfunction explain the reasons behind crimes such as these? Most people with mental illness and addictions, or both, are people we know, people we love, who fell on hard times, developed a hereditary illness, a chemical imbalance, or experienced severe trauma or multiple traumas, but they are not ‘evil’ and they do not want to hurt anyone, except at times, themselves. So what about the people that are fully aware of what they do, yet they continue to do it because they enjoy the feelings their crimes give them, yet feel no compassion, and lack the conscience, that ‘little voice’ that most of us have that says ‘stop’ when we’re angry so we don’t cross that line between making a mistake, doing something uncontrolled due to illness…why isn’t that humanity there? Why doesn’t any therapy used on serial offenders work? Why are they compulsive liars? Why do they crave violence and power? Why have we been unable to figure it out, at least so far, with all of our science and technology? Why can we not identify a commonn thread? Their stories are all different; not everyone had a terrible childhood or upbrining, not everyone had something so bad happen to them that we can say, there it is, that’s what turns someone to serial crime (serial rape, serial killing, pedophillia); so why don’t they have a conscience. A book called “The Sociopath Next Door”, written by Dr. Martha Stout, states that 1 in 25 people in North America do not have a conscience. Not all of them are serial offenders or even murderers, however, because they do not have compassion, empathy, regret, remorse, and do not understand it as they cannot feel these emotions, they will do whatever they feel is best for them (extreme opportunists with a sense of entitlement and a narcissistic streak), even if it means causing another person to lose their job so they can move up in the company, or verbally and/or emotionally abusing others to get them to intimidate them if they feel they are an imposition, or an annoyance, or lying and cheating and deceiving even the most vulnerable people to get whatever it is they want in this life (often money, power, status, and the reverence of those around them). Could these people all be possessed? Is it possible?

This article is one that leaves many questions with you to ponder. Only you may find the answers that make sense and feel right to you. The ability to open your mind and ponder things you feel strongly about already from different perspectives is the reason philosophy exists. We are all philosophers to some degree. We speculate, we question, we theorize about many things throughout our lives. Wisdom comes from being willing to even consider a different answer than your own, from doing the research from valid sources to ensure you have as much correct information or as close to what we believe to be correct documentation as exists at this time, and from thinking, even for awhile…”Is it possible?”

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