Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Restless Spirits of the Penn’s Creek Massacre

It was the fall of 1755.

The American Colonies were still in their infancy.

Central Pennsylvania was the western frontier of the English Colony of America. The pioneering settlers were for the most part German however, and they had gained a good reputation with the native Indians because of their honesty and charity. Many of the settlers were Christians and some were Missionaries coming to the New World to share the message of Christ. Through love and sincerity many Native Americans became Christians, finding a connection with their aboriginal beliefs and the teachings of Christ.

But two events that had recently took place were about to change the face of that early American frontier. First was the Albany Congress in 1754 where peace was not secured with all Indian tribes and the plan for new Forts to be built in Iroquois territory.
Many Delaware Indians of Pennsylvania saw this as a first step for the white man to take control of the fertile fields and game lands of the Susquehanna and regions west. Second was the disastrous campaign of General Edward Braddock to capture the French Fort Duquesne in the summer of 1755. The fighting of the French and Indian war was dividing the Indian nation’s allegiance with the peaceful settlers and in October a small group of Delaware Indians set out from the village of Kittanning to send a message to the encroaching white man. A message of blood and fire.

They attacked the settlements around Penn’s Creek in Union County killing 13 and capturing 11. Two 12 year old girls, Marie le Roy and Barbara Leninger were part of the captured few who managed to survive. Later after they were freed they wrote of the massacre that happened at Penn’s Creek on October 16th 1755.

“Early in the morning of the 16th of October, 1755, while le Roy’s [the father of Marie] hired man went out to fetch the cows, we heard the Indians shooting six times. Soon after, eight of them came to the house, and killed Barbara (Marie) leRoy’s father with tomahawks. Her brother defended himself desperately for a time, but was at last overpowered. The Indians did not kill him, but took him prisoner, together with Marie le Roy and a little girl who was staying with the family. Thereupon they plundered the homestead, and set it on fire. Into this fire they laid the body of the murdered father, feet foremost, until it was half consumed. The upper half was lying on the ground, with the two tomahawks with which they had killed him, sticking in his head. Then they kindled the fire, not far from the house. While sitting around it, a neighbor of le Roy, named Bastian, happened to pass by on horseback. He was immediately shot down and scalped.

Two of the Indians now went to the house of Barbara Leininger, where they found her father, her brother, and her sister Regina. Her mother had gone to the mill. They demanded rum, but there was none in the house. They then called for tobacco, which was given them. Having filled and smoked a pipe, they said: “We are Alleghany Indians and your enemies. You must all die!” Thereupon they shot the father, tomahawked her brother, who was twenty years of age, took Barbara and her sister Regina prisoners, and conveyed them into the forest for about a mile. Soon they were joined by other Indians, with Marie le Roy and the little girl.

Not long after, several of the Indians led the prisoners to the top of a high hill, near the two plantations. Toward the evening the rest of the savages returned with six fresh and bloody scalps, which they threw at the feet of the poor captives, saying that they had a good hunt that day.” (The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania by C. Hale Sipe, Pages 207-208)

There have been many books written about the captivity of these two girls, and the massacre of their families. Historical plaques mark the spots of Penn’s Creek and the le Roy attacks. But there are other reminders of the tragic events that happened that October day so long ago. The restless spirits of the victims.

There are new houses close to the site of the massacres, and a cornucopia of high strangeness has occurred in the area for years.

Kirksflower, a friend of mine from the social site Supernatural Connections wrote of some of the paranormal activity witnessed in the area by members of her family. In the early 1960s her family had just moved into a house near the le Roy Massacre. In fact gravestones of some of the victims lay very close to the old farm house. The family of 10 that moved into the old house included her siblings, parents and the grandmother. It did not take long for the family to notice that something was not right in the house. The very day that they began to move in three family members were alone in an upstairs bedroom of the house, no one else was in the building, when they began to hear a loud sound as if the house itself was breathing heavily. Then ominously they heard something coming up the stairs, as if a being of great weight was slowly and methodically climbing up. The heavy footsteps became louder and heavier as something approached the second floor. The three family members thought that someone must have broken into the house and in a panic they moved a heavy wooden antique dresser in front of the door to block the intruders entrance into the bedroom. Even with the massive dresser blocking the way the door flew open with considerable force revealing…


And the strangeness never ceased.

Throughout their stay at the isolated farmhouse the grandmother was constantly vexed by a strange apparition of a small animal darting here and there that would finally find a resting place under her bed. Its eyes glowed in a blood red crimson, causing her to fear throughout the night as to what sinister force lurked beneath her bed.

It seems the grandmother of Kirksflower had a gift to perceive things that others might have missed. A gift of perceiving the other world around her that always coexists with our own but is seldom acknowledged as reality, but is usually designated by the casual observer as a dream or a mirage. But it does in truth exist. We are constantly surrounded by the past and its echoes into the life in which space we share with those who have gone before. Even if we cannot observe them, we are always surrounded by the spirits of those who have left the mortal bonds which bind us to a physical body. They live with us, even though we recognize them not. Some cannot let go, and they are trapped forever in a life that has long since vanished from the present state of the world in which we exist.

On a normal and seemingly uneventful mid summer afternoon the grandmother was delivering a much needed repast of sandwiches and coffee to her son who had been working long and hard on a few automobiles that were in dire need of repair. Her son was able to bring new life into the old rusted relics of the past and this day was unlike any other. It took grit and gumption to repair these machines that time had abandoned, but he had a keen sense that others lacked when it came to restore these automotive mechanisms which time had ravished.

On her way to the field where the rusting automobiles sat and where her son was diligently working, she saw it.

In the field where the rusting automobiles lay, she saw something that curdled the very blood that flowed in her aged veins. Out of the corner of her eye something grabbed her attention like nothing had ever before.

In the middle of the mass of machine and nature hovered a gruesome torso of a man dressed in ancient garb who was drenched in the thick ochre of blood. The apparition seemed to float in mid air as a spectacle of a scene long forgotten by mortal eyes but still remembered by time and space itself. The bloodied body had the dress of someone who had trod the earth long ago, perhaps the last century? Or the one before it? Nevertheless it hung there in a grotesque spectacle of an injustice long past into history, but one which still resonated into the present. The long dead blood dripped from wounds that had faded into the past ages ago, and it oozed into a soil that had long since reclaimed its vital nutrients. As the aged woman ran from the apparition, it soon faded, but the vision of wanton gore would not soon pass from her minds eye.

It seemed whatever wanted to make itself known never stopped asserting itself in the location of the le Roy Massacre. The strangeness never ceased. Months had passed since the bloody apparition, but it had never left the grandmothers mind.

One night in the middle of winter she was readying the children of the house for bed as the parents had gone to work when the house shook with an unearthly rattle. There was a noise from the outside of the house like cannons firing. They all rushed down the staircase to peer out the windows and see if indeed it was weapons firing in the nearby field , and as soon as they set foot on the floor at the base of the stairs a heavy knock rattled the front door. With her arms stretched out in defense she prevented the children from opening the door to the unseen person who was visiting late that evening. Instead of opening the door she cried out to whatever was on the other side to identify itself. But no reply was forthcoming, instead the doorknob rattled and shook, twisting itself around as if someone was in a manic attempt to enter the house but had no idea as to how to do it. The family stood there in fright as the knob turned by itself for many minutes only to suddenly stop with no other sound or attempt by whatever was on the other side to gain entry. They all quietly moved back up the stairs and the grandmother tried to put the children to sleep, but few found rest that night as they all feared what was lurking on the grounds of their homestead. Early in the morning there was evidence that something indeed was at the door. There were footprints in the snow that led from the door to a little toy wagon that was left in the front lawn. The foot prints were bloody and they disappeared into oblivion leaving no trace as to their origin. No accidents were reported in the area that night, and no one else had heard the terrible explosion that preceded the unnatural visitation. But something had visited that farmhouse late that December night. A horror that simply blinked out of existence but left a bloody trail in its wake. And it desperately wanted inside.

Kirksflower’s grandmother had many other experiences with the unknown in the various residences she occupied, but the hauntings of the Penn’s Creek ghosts were the most terrifying and violent she had ever encountered. The family moved out after a short time, grateful to leave this epicenter of supernatural terror.

The last strangeness that the family encountered on the site happened years after they had moved out of the residence at Penn’s Creek. While on a trip Kirksflower decided to stop by the plaque dedicated to the le Roy Massacre and visit the graves of the victims that lay on the grounds of her old homestead. But the graves were no longer there. It was if the large granite stones had vanished into nothingness just like the apparitions that had plagued the family all those years ago.

After I read the encounters at the Penn’s creek site I made an inquiry at a local library in order to find any further evidence of hauntings at the massacre site. It turns out the bridge at Penn’s creek has been a source of supernatural lore in and of itself. Like many sites there is a local legend that if you turn your headlights off while crossing the bridge you will be confronted with a host of apparitions. This might be considered the stuff of urban legends that meets the rural crossroads unless you know the history of the restless spirits of the Penn’s Creek Massacre.

Do not turn your lights off while crossing the Penn’s Creek Bridge. You may see a ghost. Or you may join them in the dark world that abides with our own where spirits have no rest. A spectral land in which the last mortal memory you have is of twisted metal and of your life blood pouring out of you which try as you might, you cannot stop.

Leave the lights of your car on when you cross the Penn's Creek Bridge.

And do not join the restless spirits of the victims of the Penn’s Creek Massacre.

Until next time,
Pastor Swope

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Bible and the Paranormal Part 3: Cryptozoology

I have mentioned it before, my view of approaching the Bible and any of its given subjects is first and foremost: Context.

What exactly does the Bible say in its original language? What do the words mean in the original language?

Say for example I wrote on a wall that lasts a few thousand years the phrase “Color me blue”.

What will people think about my meaning of that phrase two or three thousand years in the future?

What exactly am I saying?

Put yourself in the shoes of someone out of our stream of consciousness that we happen to share in the year 2008.

Let your imagination take root.

Do I want people to paint me?

Is this a command to color a missing pictograph in that particular shade?

Since blue is the color of water, there must be some connection to the water. Do I need a drink?

Or in a more cryptic light, perhaps I am referring to an amphibious Lovecraftian pretext and Cthulhu is indeed nigh.

Wait by the seaside; he will eat the chosen ones first.

It is easy for us in our particular context (Well at least to those in my generation, in the United States) to know I am saying by the phrase “Color me blue” that you can think of me as moderately sad or depressed. And in this particular context there may be a song or story coming that will refer to this sadness, depending on what generation in the last century (in USA) you were born in.

Pretty specific huh?

The Bible was written thousands of years ago.

But what was life like a couple of thousand years ago, in the region where the Bible was written?

What idioms of everyday language thousands of years ago elude us?

How can we know?

Written History.

Words mean something.

When it comes to English translations of the Bible, one of the primary versions we have if the King James Version. After all these years and various other translations out there many still rely on it as the ‘authoritative’ version. The problem is that it was translated over 400 years ago for people of that time to understand.

What does all of this have to do with the mysterious creatures of cryptozoology and the Bible?

When you read the King James Version (KJV)of the Bible, you will run into an assortment of mythical creatures that the Bible seems to refer to as real and living in the then contemporary world of the writers. A list of these creatures includes Cockatrice, Basilisks, Leviathan, Satyr, Dragon and even the Unicorn. Many will point out these examples to further their belief that the Bible is nothing but myth, others will point to these examples to support the idea that these creatures did exist. To fully examine either of these claims let’s look at each mysterious creature in the Biblical context in which they appear and examine them.

1) The Cockatrice (Basilisk)

The Cockatrice was winged serpentine creature with the head of a rooster, tail of a snake and wings of a bat. It’s glance could turn someone to stone or kill them instantly.

The Basilisk was again a mythical serpentine creature but has various descriptions from being many legged, just a large snake to a description mirroring the cockatrice.

Biblical (KJV) references: Isaiah 11:8, 14:29,59:5; Jeremiah 8:17

Isaiah 11:8 “And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.”

The original Hebrew word translated as ‘cockatrice’ by the translators in the mid 17th century is tsepha and tsiphoniy which comes from an unused root word meaning ‘to extend’ or to ‘hiss’ as in a snake’s tongue. In all modern translations this word is translated as a venomous snake such as a viper or adder.

So why in the world did the KJV translators translate this term as Cockatrice? In all these verses the use of the words tsepha and tsiphoniy are used as an extreme example of a poisonous snake. To accurately translate it for the common man to get the idea you could think of the worst example of a dangerous snake. So in the minds of 17th century clerics what was the most wicked of poisonous serpents? The Cockatrice. Even though no one had actually seen them, these legendary creatures were well known to the general public at the time as a very deadly snake creature. But was this the intent of the original Hebrew authors? No. The translators altered the meaning of the word to more readily apply it to their context.

2) The Unicorn

A powerful and magical horse with one horn on its head.

Biblical (KJV) references: Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9,10; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; and Isaiah 34:7

Numbers 23:22 “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.”

The original Hebrew word translated as unicorn is re’em. It is a reference to the extinct ancestor of domesticated cattle the wild ox (urus or aurochs) In Assyrian base reliefs the Urus is shown from the side showing only one horn. When the first Greek translation of the Bible was made around 250B.C. the animal was already rare and no one would have had direct experience with the animal so the word re’em was translated monokeros meaning ‘one horn’ to reference the animal as depicted in the ancient Assyrian reliefs and Egyptian art.(To read more about this topic see the book Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible Volume 1 pp186-187)

The end result again is an interpretation error, this time they did get the right animal but misnamed it by reliance and misinterpretation of the 2 dimensional visual depictions that were contemporary of the animal.

3) The Satyr

The Satyr is a half man-half horse/goat creature of Greco-Roman mythology. They were the companions to the god Bacchus.

Biblical (KJV) references: Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14

Isaiah 13:21 “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”

Once again a translation problem arises in the King James version. The word translated Satyr is the Hebrew word sa’ir, from the Hebrew word se’ar which means to reference a hairy creature. In the Hebrew Old Testament the word sa’ir is used 52 times, and only in these two instances are they mistranslated as satyr in the KJV. In the context of Isaiah 13 and 34 the word sa’ir refers to the hairy mountain goat that was commonly seen roaming the ancient ruins of Edom and Babylon.

4) The Dragon

Biblical (KJV) references: 34 of them from Deuteronomy 32:33 until Revelation 20:2

Revelation 20:2 “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,”

The Hebrew word tannin (plural tannim) is used throughout the Bible and in many different versions to refer to a divergent bestiary. Tannin occurs 14 times in the Old Testament and in English Versions of the Bible it can be seen translated as "dragon," "whale," "serpent" or "sea-monster".

In Exodus 7:9,10,12 tannin is used of the serpents which were produced from Aaron's rod and the rods of the Egyptian magicians.

What exactly was a Tannin? Obviously it referred to a variety of creatures, but not one specifically. They are all ‘dragonesque’ or dinosaur like. They can live in the water or on the land. Since most of ancient Hebrew culture is a mixture of the fertile crescent civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia the Babylonian creation myth of the conflict of Marduk and Tiamat immediately spring to mind. The legend of the Dragon is indeed an old one.

Do they point to surviving Dinosaur like creatures into the ancient human era?

Many creationists will point to these references to support their idea that man and Dinosaurs were contemporaries.

Or is it just the references to fossilized dinosaur bones that the ancients attributed to recently dead creatures even though they had never seen one alive?

Either way the Old Testament references to the Tannim do raise a lot of questions.

It does look like the Old Testament is referencing some type of “Terrible Lizard”.

When it comes to the New Testament Biblical references to the Dragon it is much more definitive. The Dragon is used as a metaphor for Satan. That the Dragon is commenly depicted as a fiery serpent the creature is a wonderful allegory to the Devil as described in the Christian tradition. From the Garden of Eden he is described as a snake and his ultimate destination of Hell is a lake of fire. So you could hardly get a better match for a description of Satan than a fiery serpent of supernatural origin.

4) The Leviathan

Biblical (KJV) references: Job 41; Psalm 74:14; Psalm 104:26; Isaiah 27:1

Job 41:1 “Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?”

The Hebrew word livathan (Literally meaning ‘coiled’ or ‘wreathed’) refers to an aquatic creature of great size or strength. There are 3 various interpretations of what a Leviathan was:

a) A surviving dinosaur like sea creature or sea serpent

b) A whale

c) A crocodile

Each argument has its pluses and minuses.

The sea serpent is certainly more romantic but it is bringing our specific cultural concepts to the text instead of bringing the text itself to life.

The whale is arguably the most logical suspect for livathan because Psalm 104:25, 26 describes it as cavorting in the sea where ships travel, a trait commonly associated with whales. Also the Modern Hebrew translation of livathan is literally ‘whale’.

That the Leviathan was simply a Nile Crocodile is a common argument from most Biblical scholars and it has a long scholarly tradition. That Job 41 seems to reference a crocodile in some of its description and the commonality of the creature to the Biblical writers lends credence to this argument.

Conclusion: Most mysterious cryptids from the Bible are just mistranslations of the original words by translators who have let their own context precede that of the original writer’s intentions. However in reference to the Dragon and the Leviathan the original writers seem to be referring to creatures of unknown specificity that still fuel our imagination today.

I have often wondered why if cryptozoological creatures like the ‘wild man’ and Sasquatch are so prevalent in various corners of the world why the Biblical writers never mentioned them even in the slightest degree.

But then again you have Esau, the grandson of Abraham.

Genesis 25:24-25 (NKJV)“So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.”

The name Esau literally means ‘hairy’, and Esau lived in the fields as a hunter who liked savory meat. Hmm.

However the Bible does tell us that the line of Esau eventually became the Edomites, a paganistic Canaanite tribe that was a constant source of idolatry for Ancient Israel.

But the physical description of Esau is still striking.

I guess we will have to look for ancient support for the Sasquatch in other regions!

update 8/28/2008
A new video from Sweden shows the legendery Great Lake Sea Monster captured on film. Looks very 'livathan-esque'. Warning it's a Swedish newscast with no translation.

Here's the web site for the monster:

Update 8/29/2008

Cryptomundo has linked the video with a translation here:

Thanks Loren and Xeno!

Till next time,

Pastor Swope

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Vampire's Ghost of Guadalajara

Maria was always an inquisitive girl. She liked to poke and prod around everything she encountered ever since she was a young child. Her family had lived on Nardo street in Guadalajara, Mexico all of her young life. Like most of the children in her neighborhood the streets were their playground and she had explored every nook and cranny of the streets that surrounded her home. One spot that truly fascinated her was the cemetery that was only a few blocks away, El Panteon de Belen. It is an ancient cemetery with many supernatural legends surrounding its occupants. Maria was only two years old when she first went there on November 2nd during a festival for the day of the dead. The cemetery had been turned into a museum long ago and the day of the dead celebrations would go on into the night with puppet shows and plays preformed throughout the graveyards property. She didn’t know when she first heard the story of the Vampire’s grave, it seemed as though it had been a part of her experience of El Panteon de Belen for as long as she could remember.

The story is told that long ago there was a vampire who stalked the countryside of Guadalajara in the early 19th century. Livestock and newborn babies were attacked in the middle of the night and all of their blood was drained from their lifeless bodies. The local citizens were on alert and during the dark hours of early morning a man was seen skulking back into his house after another reported attack of El Vampiro. A mob was formed and they burst into his house and killed him while he lay in his bed. A crude wooden stake was driven through his heart and he was buried unceremoniously in El Panteon de Belen. The stick was fed by his preternatural blood and soon it grew into a massive tree that burst open the tomb of El Vampiro. Legend has it that if you cut a limb from the tree you will see blood mingled with the sap ooze from the stump. An old prophecy claims that once the tree completely overgrows the grave and pushes the coffin up to the ground, El Vampiro will be free to rise again and take his revenge upon the citizens of Guadalajara.

This story fascinated and frightened Maria, and she would often stare at the opened hole of the crypt of El Vampiro whenever she visited the cemetery. Sometimes she was sure she thought something moved in the shadows, but her mother told her that her imagination was overactive from watching too many movies on television. But as she grew, the fascination with the crypt and the certainty that something was moving in its stygian darkness motivated her to visit the grave more frequently.

When she was 11 she her curiosity about the site was piqued and she decided to investigate the grave up close without anyone to bother her. After her parents had gone to bed she snuck out of the house after midnight and stealthfully walked the busy streets of Guadalajara and climbed the walls of El Panteon de Belen. The caretaker was usually guarding the grounds with his dog but luckily for her they had retreated to some location or another and she was not harassed as she made her way through the moldy and decaying crypts to the great tree. When she arrived at the grave of El Vampiro she stood undecided for a few moments as fear gripped her heart, but she then cast these feelings aside and boldly skirted the makeshift fence that was erected to keep out the curious and vandals during normal visiting hours.

The cracked top of the crypt seemed like a bottomless pit as she carefully crawled toward it. She saw no movement now, only a gaping black pit where nothing was discernable. Fear once again seized her heart, but she once again pushed these emotions aside and moved on with sheer determination.

She let her legs drop down into the hole and took out the small candle and lighter that she had tucked away in her dress pockets. With a quick flick she lit the wick and the small illumination gave her just enough light to find a footing in the crypt. She lowered herself down only to find herself in a cramped oblong tomb not much larger than the metal casket she stood upon. There was just enough head room for her to slouch while on her knees as she beheld the old iron casket in the dim light. The metal was thin and very rusty, and it seemed to give a little as she distributed her weight on its lid. There was some writing on the lid at the head and she scooted herself to get a closer look. When she did so the metal began to buckle and flake as the corroded metal gave way and a small hole began to form at her knee no bigger than a baseball. She shifted her weight away and leaned to read the writing, but it was too rusted and the lighting too dim for her to distinguish what the old lettering actually said.

It was then she felt something touch her leg.

It was something that was coming out of the coffin.

She screamed and bumped her head on the inner lid of the crypt, but the daze that overcame her did not prevent her from quickly making her way out of the crypt’s hole with remarkable speed.

She ran all the way home, and it was not until she opened the door did she see the blood.

It was trickling down her arm from a cut on the top of her head, and she had bled so much that the top half of her dress was a crimson stain. She managed to sneak in her house undetected and quickly disrobed and washed the cut on her head, luckily it did not seem that bad and the blood had stopped flowing. Her hair would hide it as it healed, and she washed her dress in the sink to hide all evidence of her nightly excursion.

She did not sleep at all that night though, for at every slight sound in the night or movement on the street outside of her window she was brought back to the terror she experienced in the crypt. She was sure El Vampiro was after her. After all, not only did something come out of the coffin and touched her, she had bled in the vampire’s crypt. Surely once he tasted her blood he would want more.

She felt sick the following day partially because of the lack of sleep and partially because of the throbbing headache she felt from the wound on her head. But she did her household chores without complaining or telling her parents what had transpired the night before. And even though exhausted from the previous night without sleep and a full day of work, that evening she could not rest but instead lay rocking in her bed for hours fearful of the thing in the crypt. Finally she succumbed to exhaustion and fitfully fell into a half wakeful slumber. She awoke to see a dark figure standing over her bed. It was a tall man with no discernable features who just stood there watching. Maria screamed and her parents ran to her bedside. As soon as the lights were turned on the figure vanished, but the young girl was hysterical. In tears she confessed to her parents of the previous nights adventure and the thing she had seen at her bed. They were terrified, not because of the dark figure but at the fact that the young girl had been roaming the streets in the middle of the night and had hurt herself. They calmed her down and assured her that it was just a figure of her imagination. The next day they brought her to a doctor who tended to her wound and found that there was a slight infection. He too assured little Maria that the specter at the end of her bed was just an illusion from her wound and lack of sleep.

But the dark figure returned the next night. Maria awoke to pain on her head and the dark figure was leaning over her. The girl’s screams alerted her parents, and this time when they came into her room they found her pillow had a spot of blood on it. Maria’s wound had seemed to open once again. The girl was sure that it was El Vampiro taking another drink of her blood, and after they once again dressed her wound the girl refused to sleep alone in the bed, so her mother sat by her resting in a chair.

For two nights the mother slept in the room and even though she slept soundly the girl seemed to weaken. The wound also refused to heal. The doctor had no idea why the wound would seem to heal during the day but reopen during the night. Maria was adamant that it was the work of the vampire ghost that attacked her, but her parents just regarded this as foolishness. That all changed on the third night after Maria’s fateful excursion. The mother sat with Maria for a while, until she fell off to sleep. Then she made herself ready to retire into her bedroom, but first stopped in the bathroom to freshen up before bed. On her way to her bedroom she quickly checked on Maria. Peering through the half opened door she saw her daughter lying asleep in bed and what looked to be a man standing over her in the darkness. She screamed for her husband and burst the door open and in the half second before the specter disappeared she swore she saw at look up at her with glowing eyes of fire. And once again the wound on Maria’s head was bleeding. The family was now convinced they were dealing with no normal wound, but they had no idea what to do.

While Maria’s family was not religious, Maria’s grandmother was a stout Pentecostal and she asked her minister for help. Although he had no formal training in such matters he did believe in the supernatural powers of darkness and decided to help anyway he could. Rev. Guivez visited with the family one night and talked at length with Maria. He anointed the wound with oil and prayed over her and the family in her bedroom. Immediately a porcelain doll flew off a nearby shelf and crashed into the wall just above the Reverend’s head. The minister was shaken up but still having his wits about him immediately demanded that the activity cease and the entity that was appearing and causing the harm to the girl immediately leave the room. Within seconds the room became cold and a mist began to swirl next to Maria. Every person there swore it looked like it was taking the shape of a man. Reverend Guivez immediately invoked the name of Christ and demanded that it cease and desist, and to his surprise the mist began to fade. With new found authority he demanded again that the entity leave the house immediately; and suddenly they heard the house cat in the next room screech in terror. The father turned to see it run frantically around the house as if insane and then jumped out an open window, and into the heavy traffic of Nardo street. It was run over and killed instantly.

The apparitions stopped and within a few days Maria’s wound began to heal for good. She never again went to El Panteon de Belen, not even to celebrate the day of the dead. She grew up to be a well adjusted young woman with a fantastic story to tell. After everyone in the church and the neighborhood heard of Maria’s tale, Reverend Guivez soon was called to many people and places where spiritual deliverance was needed. He quickly found himself doing more exorcism than marriages in his ministry at the Pentecostal church.

According to the e-mail that I received from which this story comes, the tree over El Vampiro’s crypt was cut down . Only a stump remains. There was no blood as they took the saw to the old wood. But that has not stopped the stories of El Vampiro’s hauntings. To this day his crypt has a vast hole on the top beckoning visitors to El Panteon de Belen to come in for a closer look.

If you visit this cemetery in Guadalajara, do not be tempted to explore the crypt yourself.

You never know what you might find.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Bible and the Paranormal Part 2: UFOs

This entry is by no means going to be a verse by verse explanation of Possible UFO sightings from the Bible.

That would take an entire year worth of entries to cover.

And to find that all you have to do is Google UFO and Bible and you will get a hory host of sites that address these verses. Some are very good reads with great points to make.

I’ve been paying attention to this area of Fortean studies for about 25 years now, and while the topics expand in the details, the basics have not changed much. It seems that the majority of opinions on this subject break off into two divergent paths of speculation in the area of UFOs and Biblical accounts.

1) All Biblical accounts of angels, giants and visionary phenomena can be explained by extraterrestrial alien activity.


2) All UFOs are demonic entities that are here to deceive mankind.

Now both of these theories have their pluses and minuses. Both are equally valid, because frankly we really do not know what the UFO phenomenon truly is.

Let’s take a close and critical look at both of these views.

(Please note: these are broad generalizations and are by no means an assault on the beliefs of others or an attempt at stereotyping those who believe in such theories. I am looking at the broad themes here, not the individual beliefs.)

1) Biblical Accounts Describe Extraterrestrial Alien Encounters

In this thesis aliens have been visiting Earth for countless millennium. Primitive civilizations were amazed by these visitors with what seemed to be supernatural power and described them in their preconceived world view of gods and spirits. Biblical descriptions of angels are really aliens who are trying to enlighten primitive mankind and bring them along on the evolutionary ladder. The Chariot of fire that takes up Elijah to heaven and the wheel within the wheel of Ezekiel’s vision are merely crude descriptions of alien spacecraft. The Nephalim of Genesis 6 are crossbred human alien hybrids or depending on the author they are the breed aliens themselves. In some extreme views along this line God Himself is really an alien who seeded our race upon this planet and the Garden of Eden is a genetic laboratory that existed either on earth, in a UFO or on another planet. Some would even claim that Jesus was an extraterrestrial who just went back to the Mothership when He ascended to heaven.

Critique: To me the main problem with this argument is that it seems to be based on what a former professor of mine called the “Ignorance of the Ancients” theory. Mankind was just so darn ignorant in the past that they just couldn’t conceive of the technology that they encountered with these extraterrestrial visitors. In line with this theory is the belief that ancient man was too primitive to construct the Pyramids of Egypt and other monuments of the past. They even needed alien help to move from a nomadic hunter gatherer society to an agricultural one. Eric Von Daniken along with a host of others popularized this theory in the late 60s and early 70s till it has become a dominant theme of many paranormal writers when they look into the mysteries of the past. But its flaw is it lessens the infinite possibilities of man’s imagination in whatever age he existed. Given enough time and human effort man can complete incredible tasks, and it truly has been a long time since anyone has had a truly uniquely original idea. From building enormous monoliths to inventing small volt batteries, ancient man was just as persistent and inventive then as he is now. To look at the legacy of ancient mankind and to simply proclaim ‘aliens did it’ does not do justice to the fortitude of our ancestors. Discoveries are lost and rediscovered throughout time. And ancient man was neither ignorant nor stupid.

Nevertheless there are a lot of interesting hypothesis that originate from this view of prehistory. To me the notion that the Ancient Babylonian Anunnaki were reptilian aliens is both intriguing and very Lovecraftian. And many ancient artifacts do look like they are attempting to describe aspects of the modern phenomena of UFOs as we encounter them today.

However in the end this argument just lacks soul. When you strip it down to the basics the basis of this worldview is that there is no God and the supernatural can be easily explained by science. It is basically Darwinist humanism with a touch of conspiracy theory. To me at least, it seems with the great sweeping creative and unrestrained panorama of myth from all cultures and all ages, if ancient man had been visited by extraterrestrials then he would have reported it as such. Perhaps not explicitly so, but the descriptions would not be directly ‘religious’ in theme unless these aliens posed as gods to deceive mankind. But if the alien visitors wanted to evolve mankind and knew there were no such things as gods, why would they pretend to be gods themselves? In the worldview of secular humanism religion is a step backwards in the evolutionary process of mankind, not a step forward. Why would they try to introduce a system of misinformation that is counterproductive to the evolution of humanity? Were the aliens trying to scam us? And why are they not still doing so today? They certainly have a fertile field to work with. The only explanation is the same one theorized by many proponents of a global government conspiracy to cover up the alien presence: someone has deemed that we are not ready to know the truth.

2) All UFOs are demonic entities that are here to deceive mankind.

The basic supposition of this thesis is that Satan is described in the Bible as the prince and power of the air ( Ephesians 2:2) and since UFOs are primarily an atmospheric phenomena the devil is suspect prime in these delusions to make man focus on the possibility that he is not the primary focus of the creation of the universe. If there are other worlds then that raises a whole unwanted rhetoric that has the potential to rock the Christian faith to its core. Other worlds might mean other gods or no God at all. What is our cosmological foundation if there are intelligent beings from other worlds interacting with our own? To make matters worse for those who hold these views, the themes and principles set forth by those who have had contact with these ‘visitors’ and the ‘aliens’ themselves are very humanistic and “New Age”. The ‘aliens’ teach humans the universalism of religion and secular humanist ideology. These other worldly beings exhibit strange powers over the humans they interact with and therefore they must be demonic beings who have been sent by Satan to deceive mankind from the truth. They work in ways similar to medieval demonic infestations, where the person is visited at night by evil spirits and either possessed, molested sexually/physically or initiated into a series of oppression actions that lead to the destruction of their free will. This is all a plot by Satan to stage the End Times. Once mankind reaches a certain stage of total iniquity and they en masse abandon the faith and the Antichrist can rise to power. The message of the ‘visitors’ is just one piece of the puzzle that will doom the majority of mankind and lead to Armageddon.

This video is LONG.....just a warning...

Critique: To me it seems much of the logic of this argument hinges on certain scriptural passages. Namely the one I have previously cited which calls Satan the prince and power of the air (Ephesians 2:1-3) and the passages which calls him the deceiver of mankind. First and foremost is the interpretation of this scripture itself. What does it say? Is Satan a powerful being who rules the air?

Then God help the Internet.


Shut off your computer.

Half the time it is being carried by airwaves and you can’t risk the satanic influence.

But does this verse instead reference the unseen mindset at the time of the writing? That is, the predominant urge for sin within humanity and the rationalization of sinful behavior? This verse is akin to the phrase “There is something in the air”. A force that is both present and real but intangible.

The author intends a reference to the “world system” of greed and immorality that dominates the thoughts and motivations of the general populace. This system is the antithesis of the views of Christ.

Let me put it this way:

So just because the flying saucer is up in the air spinning don’t make it the devil’s dradeil.

God’s universe is bigger than the fragile human mind.

If you believe in the Biblical God then you better believe He is in control, or you better just check yourself into a sanitarium. ‘Cause if you give the Devil the same power as God then you are a Dualist.

Not a Christian.

Not a Monotheist.

Just join a Rosocurian sect and get done with it.



Not to insult any Rosocurians out there, just making a point.

And with the issue of the message of the ‘aliens’; if you think it is real then try to mesh it with your world view.

If you do not then it is the messenger and not the message you have a problem with.

Try to reach out in love and understanding.

Like Jesus would.

How novel, huh?

So what does the Bible say about UFOs?

Not a lot, in my view. But I am a guy who goes to a birthday party and likes to keep the Cake and Ice Cream separate from one another.

They are great individually, but when they merge it is an ooey gooey mess that has no real taste on its own.

Not repulsive, but not that great.

Such is my view on UFOs and the Bible.

I am sure I have met angels. I am truly blessed.

I am sure I have seen UFOs in the Hudson river flap of the 80’s. I am again truly blessed.

I think they are two different phenomenon, just because there is no overwhelming evidence to merge the two world view.

But that is just me.

I hate mixing cake and ice cream.

But I love cake flavored ice cream.

Yes, I am a weirdo, thanks.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Crazed Ghost of the Love Lost Nun

Dorothy had met Tom at a local dance held at an old farmhouse one lazy summer evening. The dance was an intercollegiate mixer for the local Catholic Schools in the area. For such a small town Erie had a surprising number of colleges, and many of them Catholic. Dorothy was a sophomore at Mercyhurst a beautiful all girls Catholic Campus spread on the hills overlooking the city that was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in the early 20th century. She was a devout Catholic who often entertained the idea of giving herself over to the Lord’s service as a nun since she seemed to never meet any guys that she clicked with. She thought for sure she was destined for the habit and celibacy but she had come out that night to just live a little. Tom wasn’t a Catholic, and did not attend a Catholic school. He was a Junior at The Behrend College on the cities east side and tagged along with some buddies that night in order to meet some girls. The two of them were forced to be dance partners for everyone else had partnered up, and as they danced slowly in that warm summer night a burning fire began to kindle in their hearts.

They dated and even though Tom was not Catholic, Dorothy’s parents could see he was a wonderful lad of good moral fiber and they wholeheartedly approved of the relationship. That October as their separate semesters were well under way Tom walked with Dorothy through the colorful wooded autumn trails of his campus at Wintergreen Gorge. At a wonderfully secluded site by a small waterfall he pulled a ring from his jacket and proposed. It was a simple ring, with one small quarter cakat diamond, but to Dorothy it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever beheld. He asked her to marry him and she accepted. Always the traditionalist Dorothy wanted to be a June bride and they set the date.

But the year was 1941 and December 7th the world forever changed for that generation of American youth. Tom was shipped off to the European theater of World War 2 before Christmas. They had toyed with the idea of having an early wedding, but they had no money and decided that it was best if they postponed it until his return.

Dorothy was heartsick but she continued her education at Mercyhurst while Tom fought the Nazis in France. Months went by and the correspondence was slow but steady, but abruptly stopped around the time the spring semester was over. Weeks later within days of their proposed wedding date the dreaded news arrived with a courier from Veterans affairs, Tom had been killed in action and his body lost.

Of course Dorothy’s world was torn asunder. Her grief knew no end, but in her sorrow she turned to the convent of the Sisters of Mercy for solace. She found peace sitting alone in the College’s Christ the King Chapel, lighting the candles in memory of Tom and it was during this time she knew that no other man would ever take his place, so she joined the convent and became a nun with the Sisters of Mercy. After her training in the sisterhood she took her final vows and following the service she came back to the Chapel where she had originally made her decision. She took out her engagement ring that Tom had given her and placed it on the finger of the baby Jesus in the area between the main Christ the King’s Chapel and the smaller Queens chapel as a symbol of both her devotion to the church and her leaving her old life behind as she moved towards the future.

The years went by and Dorothy adapted well to the life at the convent and was a studious and hard working member of the order. When the war ended in 1945 Dorothy was still serving the college community when she had a visitor. In the dark light of the chapel the young man in uniform stepped forward, but even before she saw his face Dorothy knew who it was and in the shock of discovery she almost fainted. It was Tom. He had never died in Europe; there had been some confusion on the battlefield. He had tried to write but since he was constantly on the move and in battle as an infantry man, communication was next to impossible. What letters he had sent must have been intercepted because of his supposed death.

Dorothy was overjoyed at the safe return of the man she loved. But as they spent time together the conflict in her heart tore her apart. She had loved Tom but was far in the process of moving on with her life. Tom acted like their parting was just a few days ago and he wanted to start the relationship right where they had left it, but for Dorothy that was a lifetime ago. She was a different person; she had devoted her life to God. That Tom was not a Catholic and had no desire to become one only aggravated her frustration. But deep in her heart she did truly love him. If there was every to be man in her life her heart knew it could only be Tom. Tom was very frustrated with the situation as well. He had held onto his love for Dorothy through the daily hell of war on the battlefield, and he was deeply hurt by her inability to make a decision about their future together. He demanded an answer.

One night after praying long and hard before the statue of the baby Jesus that held her engagement ring on its finger, Dorothy was overcome with grief and frustration. She loved Tom but he was pushing her too hard, these decisions were coming at her too fast. To her it seemed her life was spiraling out of control. She was frantic, and the pressure was too much for her fragile mind. She ran up to her small room that was just above the chapel and in manic frustration she committed suicide by hanging herself from a light fixture.

Soon apparitions of a nun were seen throughout the Old Main Tower area of the College. She seemed to be wandering the chapel grounds as if looking for something. Students would see her in their dorms-walking the hall or her reflection behind them in a mirror. Some said there was an uneasy presence in the room that adjoined the two chapels, the same room where the baby Jesus statue still held Dorothy’s engagement ring. This activity went on undisturbed for years, until in the 1950’s a disturbing incident occurred.

A young female student had seen the ring on the statues finger and had taken it to play a prank on her boyfriend. Their relationship had been a long distance one since she came to attend Mercyhurst but they were still committed to each other and he visited every weekend. They had been talking about marriage but he had cold feet and was stalling to pop the question. So this young lady took Dorothy’s ring to fool her boyfriend into thinking someone else had beat him to the punch, and hopefully spur him into making his own proposal. She called him on the phone to tell him she had something very important to talk about and would meet him halfway between the college and their hometown. But on her way to meet him she died in a particularly bizarre and violent freak accident on the highway.

Her friends were sure it was because of the ring. And word rapidly spread throughout the college community that the Ghost Nun’s ring was cursed. It is rumored that College officials were also terrified of the possible curse on account of the various paranormal activities that had manifest itself campus wide since her suicide. They decided the best thing to do was to bury Dorothy’s ring in a secret location on campus so no one else could fall victim to the curse.

I have known the basics of this story for some years and before investigating it further I had read a wonderful version of it in the book “Ghosts of Erie County” by Stephanie Wincik. Her book is full of fascinating and spooky Ghost Stories from Northwestern Pennsylvania, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy. Here’s a link!

The Cursed ring is buried, and no one else in all these passing years have been exposed to its blight. But the ghostly activities of the suicidal nun did not stop with the burial of the engagement ring. To this day students and staff have the occasional run in with the forlorn spirit of Dorothy.

Here is a letter from a former student:

I went to Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA in 1995 - 1996 and I left in the fall when my father died. Anyway, I lived in Egan Hall, which is connected to Old Main and the chapel and I saw the nun and her antics almost daily in the fall of 1996. I saw her reflection in the bathroom windows at night. She often opened and closed windows and doors, turned faucets and radios on and flushed the toilets for hours on end. I was frightened at first but my room mate (a very down to earth and logical girl) told me a friend of hers who lived on the boys' floor saw the sister every morning around 4:00am when he got up for crew practice and that she was only there to look out for us. I also used to see a blue orb floating from the chapel through old main when I was coming back from the computer lab late at night. Other students had seen the orb originate from a small statue in the chapel and a figure had been seen in the organ loft as well. I have heard that the path between campus and the new convent is haunted but I can't verify that.

Confused and heartbroken the spirit of Dorothy still roams the Campus of Mercyhurst College. Does she still look for answers while traversing the twilight between worlds? Or is she stuck in a state of limbo because the violent death she suffered at her own hands? We will never know for sure but the apparition of the nun has never gone away.

And many students who walk over the small green island in the middle of East Main Drive which lies in front of Weber Hall swear that they immediately suffer bad luck. Could this be where Dorothy’s ring lies awaiting another victim? Or is it coincidence?

The current students are all to aware of the Ghostly Nun at Mercyhurst, in fact they made a little video about it last year:

If you visit Mercyhurst College in Erie Pennsylvania be sure to visit Christ the King’s Chapel in the Old Main Tower section of the campus. Go to the altar and turn left to go into the Queens chapel: It is a dark blue chapel that when visiting in the dark can be most unnerving. But before you enter the Queens chapel, look to your left at the statue of the baby Jesus of Prague adorned in kingly garb. He holds his two fingers up in the air as a blessing. If you look closely you can see some strange markings on the fingers that look as if a ring had left indentations on them.

Then go into the Queens chapel and pray for Dorothy. May her soul one day find rest.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Bible and the Paranormal Part 1: Ghosts

Warning Christian Dogma and Biblical Exposition Ahead!

This is the beginning of a short series where we will look at various topics of the paranormal and Fortean variety and see if Christian Scripture has anything relevant to say about them.

First on our paranormal plate is Ghosts!

Since The Sci-Fi Channel’s hit TV series Ghost Hunters hit the airwaves a few years ago investigations into the paranormal has gained in popularity. Seems like people are paying attention and a week does not go by lately when you see a news report of a local haunting. Here is one from my Youtube page that I recently put up that features an apparition caught on a security camera from a North Carolina High School:

As the popularity of Ghost hunting spreads it forces many people to take a hard look at their views of the afterlife and re-examine them in accordance with their long held traditions and religious faith. To many there is a conflict between the way they view subjects of the paranormal and what the teachers of dogma in their faith dictate.

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a woman who felt conflicted with her beliefs in the paranormal and her church’s view on the supernatural:

Pastor Swope,

I have been struggling with my beliefs in the paranormal, ie.ghosts, spirits, demons, ufos, etc. My fascination with this subject has me questioning if God would or does approve? I truly believe that after death, we go somewhere, we are energy and energy cannot die, our souls evolve to a higher plain, albeit ,heaven or hell. I was raised catholic and consider myself Christian. Some Christian teachings forbid any affiliation or belief in ghosts, they insist all is demonic. I would like to know what your belief is on this subject. I am a huge fan of the show "Ghosthunters" and never miss an episode, am I sinning? Throughout my life strange things have happened to me that defied explanation, during my teenage years(I am 51),while babysitting is Levittown,PA, Red Rosa Gate to be exact, there was a spirit living in the house that played strange games, and scared me more often then not. My parents bought a home in Maine shortly after I was married with children, and their house was haunted, my Mother insisted it was the former resident, an old woman. Could this indeed be demonic in nature and tricking us to believe they are friendly spirits? I I would be very thankful to get your opinion on this subject. I don't want to anger God with my beliefs!



I have known many Christians who struggle with their belief in the paranormal and church teachings. But what does the Bible say about Ghostly apparitions? What are they? Is it heresy to believe such things?

Many Evangelical and Fundamental Christian writers (I would call them Theologians but with many it is quite evident that they have not had training in Biblical Scholarship past Sunday morning Bible School) claim that the popular concept of a ghost and spectral hauntings are unbiblical. Many Catholic Theologians would agree with this view. But in the whole of Christianity these beliefs vary quite broadly. I have many friends and associates that think all ghosts are actually demonic spirits mimicking the behavior of expired human beings in order to lead people astray from “pure” Christian faith. Others believe that Ghosts are merely residue of a past life and does not have anything to do with the actual person’s soul or spirit. And I have a few friends who are avid Ghost Hunters in their own right and can determine true hauntings from apparitions and discern wayward spirits from demonic entities.

It all comes down to what view the person has on the afterlife. Where do we go when we die? There are many references in the Bible that points to the destination of the person after death. Let’s first look at these.

2 Corinthians 5:1,6-8

“For we know that if our earthly house this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

“We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Many people who argue against Ghosts as unbiblical point to verses 6-8. When we are dead, we are with God in heaven. So according to this view, there can be no such thing as a real haunting because the soul and spirit are in heaven at the point of death.

However that would be taking the scripture out of context. The Apostle Paul is writing this in a Roman jail. He is about to die. Christianity is an illegal religion at this time and those who align themselves with the group face torture or even death. Paul talks to the church at Corinth to ease their troubled hearts. Our lives are but passing, but the afterlife is eternal. Our mortal body will die, but we will be given a new one that is immortal. The Apostle Paul desires to be in that new immortal body so he can physically be with the Lord. According to Systematic Christian Theology this new body is not given to us at death, but rather at the resurrection of the just or the ‘rapture’.

The rapture is the Christian theological belief that Jesus will descend from heaven at the end of days and resurrect all His followers just as He was resurrected after He died. The mortal body will be replaced with a supernatural immortal body. Two of the main Biblical passages that give details about this are 1 Corinthians 15: 50-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. These passages are lengthy so I will not include them in total here, if you wish to read them in their entirety please click on the passage and you will be redirected to them.

But these passages are telling when it comes to what happens to the persona after death.

1 Corinthians 15:51 reads

“Behold, I will tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep but we shall be changed.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13 reads

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”

The term ‘sleep’ is a euphemism for death in Christian Scripture (John 11:11-14). The writer for all of these books is the Apostle Paul, so rather than supporting the idea that when we die we are with God in heaven he states that those who die ‘sleep’. What does this mean? It refers to the body, not the spirit or soul. The body sleeps at death until it is changed into a new supernatural one at the end of days.

So what happens to our invisible part, the spirit or soul after death? Can the spirit still roam the Earth after death?

The Bible does talk about Ghosts, and the spirit of the dead returning to the earth.

In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapter 28:7-25 we see Saul King of Israel visit a medium when God does not answer him when war approaches. The prophet Samuel has died and King Saul asks the medium to bring up Samuel from the dead. The Ghost of Samuel talks to the King and tells him his fate is sealed just as he told him while he was alive. Verses 11-15 talk about the appearance of the Ghost of Samuel:

Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!” And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.” So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down. Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

The Bible clearly states that this is the Ghost of the prophet Samuel. Nowhere in the text does it state that he is otherwise. The spirit is the disembodied essence of the man, and he is recognizable. He is ‘brought up’ from the earth by the witch of Endor, brought from the grave to their presence.

According to the Old Testament, the concept of a Ghost or disembodies spirit of a deceased person is not only real, it is Scriptural.

What about the New Testament? A lot of Theological concepts evolve between the Testaments, such as Grace, Forgiveness and a host of others. What about the concept of a Ghost? Does this evolve as well after the teachings of Jesus?

Almost everyone has heard the story of Jesus walking on water, and if you ever went to Sunday School as a kid I am sure you additionally heard about Peter attempting to do the same and failing. This tale of trust and faith has been used for millennia to teach and encourage Christians. But just before the text talks about Peter’s attempt to come to Jesus on the water the text tells us something unusual:

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:25-27

The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost. And they were afraid. Now if ghostly apparitions are all demonic presences as some Christians report, why were the disciples afraid? Just a few chapters earlier Jesus had demonstrated how to exorcise evil spirits and then commissioned the disciples to go all over the land and do so. (Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew 10:1-4) Although not implicit in the text it would seem that they should have had some personal experience in exorcism by themselves. So why were they afraid? Because they believed in Ghosts-the disembodied spirits of the dead who still roam the earth. And not only that, Jesus did not rebuke them for thinking he was a Ghost, instead He just calmed them down and let them know it was Him. If the concept of a disembodied spirit is so unbiblical why did Jesus let his disciples believe such things exist without correction?

Christian Scripture itself attests to the validity of Ghosts, and supports the idea that they are the disembodied spirits of the dead. Later Bible readers and teachers have read into the text their preconceived notions instead of reading from the texts and basing their ideas from the Scripture itself. Cults do the same thing to make their religious claims seem legit.

But let no one fool you. Belief in Ghosts is Scriptural. And to turn a phrase that the Fundamentalists use against them I would say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Witch Cave of Une

Gladys and Syd Marklin had been Missionaries in Bogota for over 37 years when they had the weirdest and most disturbing experience with the supernatural in their whole career.

They have had much experience with battling demonic forces and have preformed numerous exorcisms while working in Colombia. While Bogota is a large modern city there are pockets of “the old religion” of animism and practitioners of the occult throughout this urban center. The Marklins specialized in counseling and delivering people from the dark forces in which they unwittingly had become ensnared. Their specialization as Exorcists made them the ‘go to” people of both other Missionaries and indigenous ministers as well when there was any hint of demonic activity. They had the spiritual gifts to both deliver victims of demonic bondage and lovingly nurture them back to wholeness of body and spirit. Mrs. Marklin is a gentle and gifted counselor who can pinpoint spiritual issues at work within her clients and with encouragement and care helps them through the recovery process. During a tough time in my life I had the privilege to be blessed by her insightful counsel and not only was she spot on and authoritative but she was also gentle and understanding as well. We shared many tales together, and her personal stories of demonic possession and deliverance were both spiritually terrifying and gracefully poignant. The most startling and uplifting of all happened just before they left the Mission field for the last time. Just a year before their retirement a local Pastor asked them to visit the small town of Une to meet with a fourteen year old girl named Tabora.

Bad luck seemed to dodge Tabora since she was a child. She was born and raised in the city of Caqueza. Her mother had died in childbirth and for that very reason her father and siblings not only resented her, they would physically abuse her. She grew up as the household slave, not allowed to go out and play with the other children but rather would do all the cleaning and food preparation for her father and two brothers. She was not even allowed to attend school, but during the night when her family slept she had taught herself to read by using her brother’s school books and papers. One night her father caught her studying at the kitchen table and calling her a Huevóna beat her so bad she never had enough nerve to try to learn from her brother’s books again. Finally when she was twelve years old she began to go through puberty. It was then that the physical abuse at the hands of her family began to turn to sexual abuse as well. By the time she was thirteen she ran away from the abuse and had found her way to the nearby village of Une. She was a deeply disturbed young girl, her mind warped from all those years of cruelty and abuse. But she found no solace on the streets of Une. Local thugs plied her with alcohol and drugs in order to offer her up for prostitution. Her fragile mental stability was shattered by the constant drug abuse and selling of her body, which led to violent and unusual behavior. When she attacked a rude customer her proxeneta beat her senseless and left her for dead outside the city limits near the mountains of the Cordillera Oriental.

It was here she roamed the countryside for a few days seeking shelter from the elements where she could until she found the cave.

It had a small opening that was covered over in foliage. So secluded was it that not even the local animals had discovered it to make a home therein. Tabora later told Mrs. Marklin that she felt as if she had been drawn to it while walking down the hillside. She knew something wanted her and needed her, and it was a feeling she so desperately desired even in her manic state. So she clawed through the thick thorn covered foliage and crawled in the tiny cave opening.

After traversing a small entry tunnel the cave expanded into large vaulted room, and there appeared to be decayed furnishings within. Tabora said it was only after clearing away the entrance and letting the light into the cave that she was able to behold exactly what the cave held. There were decayed things in the cave, but not just old furniture. There were the skeletal remains of someone lying amid what looked like a rotted table that had fallen in upon itself. On the table were old musty papers and a moldy book still open. They were in Spanish but of a style that was readable but unfamiliar to her. What they said made no sense to her so she tossed them aside. After rustling through the ruins of the cave’s previous tenant she found some old money, gold and jewelry. There was also a decayed mattress, but she did not care and she slept on it insect ridden frame and had the first peaceful sleep that she could remember. There was no one there to hurt her anymore. Finally she could be left alone.

In her sleep that night she had a strange dream. She was in the cave as it might have looked if all the decayed furnishings were still in their prime. At the table sat a heavy set middle aged woman with matted hair. She was writing on the papers with an old ink pen. There seemed to be a mist covering the air and laying thick on the ground. The woman spoke to her without looking at her. “We were waiting for someone to find us.” She said in a graveled voice, “I were so alone.” It was at this point that two little people appeared at her side, both wearing strange attire. They looked at her with their abnormally huge eyes and smiled. She said at that time she felt very afraid, but the woman at the table stopped writing and looked at her as well. The eyes were white as of a blind person, yet they seemed to peer into her soul. “Do not be afraid of my friends. They will help you to find the power you have always wanted. You will no longer be afraid of the world, the world will be afraid of you!”

And with that she woke up in the dark cave. It was night, and the thick blackness prevented her from seeing anything. As she rolled over sleepily on the decayed pile that was once a mattress she had the distinct feeling that she was not alone in the room. She could not see them but she knew they were there. They were the two strange little beings from her dream. After remembering the promise from the woman in her dream, Tabora reports that she told them if they could make her never be afraid of the anyone again, she would do whatever they wished. She told Mrs. Marklin that she felt a power fall upon her that night, a power and a presence. Something had bonded with her in the dark of that cave, something of power that lived in the corner of her mind. And she welcomed it that night as a friend.

She remembers awaking the next morning and looking at the book and papers again. This time they made sense to her, they were spells and oaths to invoke power and curses. She began to read for hours and it seemed like she remembered this material somewhere back in the corner of her mind. She began to get hungry after a while and made up her mind to leave the cave and search for some food in the countryside. But as she got up from the cave floor she saw a loaf of bread was sitting beside her, along with a clay vessel full of water. So she sat and read more. Tabora recounted that whenever she was hungry, food would appear, giving her no reason to stop her study of the moldy manuscripts. Finally when she was done she fell asleep again.

She dreamed the same dream again. The woman was still at the table, but had finished writing. Tabora came close to her and as the woman looked up she noticed that the woman looked just like her, except much older. The woman smiled and nodded and the dream faded away.

When the Marklins received the initial call from the indigenous Pastor of Une they were told that the small village had been under assault from demonic forces for months. People were telling tales of a witch roaming the streets at night, marking symbols on doors and leaving chicken legs and entrails in a chalked circle at the doorstep. The people residing in those homes became sick and the doctors were baffled. At least two people died by this mysterious disease. At other times people would wake up in the middle of the night and find her hovering over their bed laughing a diabolical laugh while they felt unable to move. She would toy with them and make threats and then leave. At the beginning she seemed to only target the drug dealers and criminals of the town, but eventually people in the well to do suburbs were being harassed as well. The police were alerted and they finally had caught her when an alarm went off in a drug store. There were no visible signs of forced entry but when the police entered they found Tabora, disheveled and frantically hurling bottle after bottle over the counter of the store. When they confronted her she actually hissed at them and they shot her twice in the abdomen. She was knocked down but the wounds were not severe, yet even though wounded she put up a struggle so she had to be restrained until they arrived at the hospital.

She was at the hospital almost a week before the Marklins were called. The local Pastor was brought in almost immediately after her wounds were tended to and the sedation wore off. At first the hospital staff thought she was just suffering from psychological distress but then the odd things began to happen. The temperature in her room fell to below freezing numerous times. Objects would be thrown by invisible hands at the Hospital staff and attending law enforcement officers. Electrical equipment around her would cease to work. Finally one nurse said she saw her eyes blacken and her fingernails grow into claws. The Pastor was brought in and tried an exorcism, but he said she actually transformed into some kind of hag like witch that you would read about in fairy tales and she breathed a noxious gas that almost knocked him and the attending officers out.

So he Marklins gave it a shot in that hospital room early one morning. They did their preliminary blessings, bindings, and prayers. They addressed Tabora but she would not speak to them, she merely muttered obscenities. Mrs. Marklin said the ordeal lasted many hours and in many sessions. They witnessed the temperature drop, various strange inhuman sounds coming from nowhere, Tabora twisting her body at unbelievable angles, her eyes changing color, her tongue seemed to grow and rot before their eyes. The most astonishing thing to Mrs. Marklin though was levitation. During an intense part of the session the hospital bed actually rose off the ground and tried to wheel itself up a wall. All the while Tabora squealed in an incredibly high pitch. Mr. Marklin commanded that the bed be brought back down and after a few repeats of the command, it finally did. Shortly after that they the entities gave their names and why they resided in Tabora. They were so strong in her because they felt a bond with her trouble and suffering. Briefly through the hours the real Tabora would surface, crying and asking why this was happening to her. She wanted to die and she begged the Missionaries to kill her. Then the entities would take hold again, but each time she asserted herself they were weaker. After the long hours the Marklins finally delivered Tabora. It could have happened in less time but she was so afraid to be powerless again. Mrs. Marklin told her of God’s love and that she was a special girl. That she was not alone. Not only did God care, they did as well and they would take her back to Bogota where she could stay with them and have a real family. That was the impetus Tabora needed to let go and be set free. The entities were cast out and Tabora lay sobbing on the bed.

After talking with the authorities the Marklins made good on their promise and brought Tabora back to Bogota with them. She still had many emotional and psychological problems but she received the help she needed by counseling with Mrs. Marklin and therapy with trained professionals. The Marklin’s other children found it rough at first but gradually accepted her as part of the family. She found God’s love actualized in real people who really cared. In less than half a years she seemed to blossom. She was alive and vibrant, she took care of herself and her self esteem grew by leaps and bounds. She still had to have counseling once in a while and had a daily regiment of medication for the first year but by the time I was told this tale a few years had already gone by and Tabora was doing exceptionally well. She was actually attending college in the Western United States. Her goal was to be a college professor. Mrs. Marklin showed off a picture of her to me. She was radiantly beautiful, and you never in a million years would have guessed that this beautiful college girl had gone through so much.

In desperation that tortured little girl reached out to evil to find power, but she ultimately made the discovery that true power abides in Love.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope