Monday, October 31, 2016

True Orthodox Ghost Story #2: The Exorcism of the Haunted Cabin

By John Sanidopoulos

"...around their graves shadowy phantoms of the departed are often seen."

- St. Gregory of Nyssa ("On the Soul and the Resurrection")

According to my own many experiences, ghosts are real and hauntings are real. As for what the nature of these ghosts and hauntings are, it is uncertain and I believe each must be examined on a case by case basis. It may be possible, and it would seem most likely, that a demonic entity is behind it. However some arguments also offer up the possibility that it could be the soul of a person who has passed, whether in tragedy or not. Yet, one must not forget to allow for some healthy skepticism, since such matters usually end up being the figment of ones imagination, or an unexplained natural occurrence. Keeping this in mind, I offer the following true personal experience, that can be corroborated outside of my own personal testimony.

True Orthodox Ghost Story #1: A Demonic Attack

By John Sanidopoulos

"There is also a very general rumor. Many have verified it by their own experience and trustworthy persons have corroborated the experience others told, that sylvans and fauns, commonly called incubi, have often made wicked assaults upon women."

- St. Augustine of Hippo ("The City of God")

One summer day in 1991 I was in Athens sitting in my cousin Dimitra's house watching television with my pious grandmother, as she was cleaning the kitchen. Specifically we were watching a documentary on the miracle of the Holy Light of Jerusalem, with actual footage of the ceremony (rarely seen on tape before the days of the internet). When the Holy Light was seen to emerge from the Holy Sepulcher, it caught Dimitra's attention and she stopped cleaning. I could see her visibly moved by the event, and even a bit troubled, as if she had something to say but didn't know how to say it. Dimitra, though she believed in God, was not necessarily a very devout Christian. Troubled by her conscience, she asked me if she could tell me something that she had never revealed before to anyone else. Though I was only fifteen and she was in her early twenties, she felt like our grandmother and I were probably the only ones that would not think she was crazy for speaking about an event in her life that she could not explain and was truly a terrifying experience for her.

Movie: "Dracula In Istanbul" (1953)

Drakula Istanbul'da (Dracula in Istanbul) is a Turkish horror film from 1953. The screenplay was based on a 1928 novel by Ali Riza Seyfi called Kazikli Voyvoda (Impaler Voivode), and is more or less a translation of Stoker's novel, but there is no Renfield character and Guzin, the "Mina" character, is a showgirl given to performing in revealing outfits. Drakula/Dracula is played by balding Atif Kaptan. Long believed lost, Drakula Istanbul'da is considered the first non-western film version of the Dracula story, and oddly, one of most faithful to the Bram Stoker original. With Dracula scaling the castle walls, implied infanticide, and the ceremonious end of the vampire, with first a staking, then a beheading, then stuffing the mouth with garlic (as per the instructions in the novel), this movie adaption contains more of the creepier elements of the book than many higher-budgeted and more pedigreed productions. Perhaps it's the proximity of Turkey to the Eastern European setting of the novel, or perhaps shared similar legends and folklore, but Drakula Istanbul'da, in all it's threadbare grace, seems to have an authentic and maybe innate feel for the myths of the region that cannot be found in any Hollywood back lot.

Christians and Horror: Three Views

In 2011 the website Zombie Theology (no longer in existence) did a series on the three different views Christians generally have in regard to the horror genre. They were written by three different Christian authors who stated their case for each, providing an interesting and helpful exchange of opinions regarding this divisive topic. Below are the links to the original sources:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Critique of Pure Horror

Jason Zinoman
July 16, 2011

WITH gruesome television series about vampires, werewolves, serial killers and zombies earning huge ratings, and a new cinematic bloodbath opening seemingly every week, the cultural appetite for horror raises a curious question: why do so many of us enjoy being disgusted and terrified?

The question has long puzzled parents and mystified spouses, but it has also increasingly engaged the attention of academics. Scholarship on the horror genre has grown so much over the last three decades that a peer-reviewed journal devoted to it, Horror Studies, was started last year. While much of the field’s research is sociological or cultural, focusing on what scary movies reveal about the time or place in which they were made, a small library of books and essays has also tried to explain the visceral appeal of shivers down your spine.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Papa John the Exorcist, and the Forty Day Exorcism of 1917

When the Bolshevik revolution took place in Russia in 1917, seventeen priests were arrested in Odessa in order to executed them. One of them hid in the forests and was saved. Then he found his two children, a boy and a girl, who had been hidden by his neighbors and escaped from the communists. His presvytera, however, was arrested and executed.

The name of this priest was Papa-John and he was a Greek. He therefore took his two children and wandered from place to place, on foot most of the time, through Romania, Bulgaria and back to Greece, his homeland. He was a parish priest in Macedonia and Thrace. Then he came to the village of Skoutera in Agrinio, because the position of parish priest was vacant.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Halloween, Jack Chick, and Anti-Catholicism

Halloween, Jack Chick, and Anti-Catholicism

The Anti-Catholic Origins of the Attack on Halloween

By Scott P. Richert

Anti-Catholic Myths

What would you think if I told you that the Catholic Church invented Islam, communism, and freemasonry, in order to undermine the faith of true Christians? That the holocaust was a Vatican plot, and Hitler merely the pawn of Pope Pius XII? That Catholics do not worship Christ and venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary, but instead worship the reincarnated Nimrod, founder of Babylon, and his wife (and mother!) Semiramis? That, as early as 1980, the Vatican had a supercomputer containing the names of every Protestant Christian in the world, designed to make it easier to round them all up in a future persecution carried out by the Catholic Church, headed up by the Antichrist, otherwise known as the Pope?

In all likelihood, you would (at best) laugh at these ridiculous ideas, and probably dismiss me as a raving anti-Catholic. Certainly, you wouldn't accept my claims as the gospel truth.

What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?

But what if I told you that every year, dozens of children are kidnapped and murdered by Satanists on Halloween?

That scores more are injured or killed when they eat candy laced with poison or shards of glass? That every year on October 31, modern-day witches follow in the footsteps of ancient Druids by celebrating demonic rituals, including human sacrifice?

Some of you are now likely nodding your head in agreement. After all, you've heard these claims for years, and where there's smoke, there must be hellfire, right?

Jack Chick Thinks He Knows

But what if I told you that, over the past 30-plus years, one man has worked tirelessly to advance both sets of claims, and that his attacks on Halloween have as much truth to them as his attacks on the Catholic Church? And that, indeed, his attacks on Halloween are not separate from, but very much a part of, his anti-Catholicism?

That man's name is Jack T. Chick, the owner of Chick Publications, the world's largest publisher of fundamentalist tracts—three quarters of a billion since 1960. Since 1980, he has made it his life's mission to subvert and undermine the Catholic Church. And in 1986, he opened a new front in that battle by focusing his attacks on the vigil of All Saints Day, better known as Halloween.

Life Was So Much Easier 40 Years Ago

In the 1970's, in the small Midwestern village where I grew up, Halloween was eagerly anticipated by children of all ages and every Christian denomination (with the exception, of course, of the very small population of Jehovah's Witnesses). In those days before the end of Daylight Savings Time was moved to the first Sunday in November, Halloween always took place after we had set our clocks back, which meant that it was good and dark by the time trick or treating began. Jack-o'-lanterns decorated every stoop, and every porch was an oasis of warm light in the chill night air. The sounds of laughter and cries of "Trick or Treat!" filled that air, as little ghosts and goblins ran from house to house, their empty pillowcases slowly filling with candy bars and popcorn balls and fruit.

No one thought that Halloween was the "Devil's Night"; in fact, in the Michigan of my youth, Devil's Night had a very specific meaning: It referred to the mayhem that took place in the inner city of Detroit every October 30, culminating, in the mid-1980's, in hundreds of acts of arson every year. But in the overwhelmingly Christian West Michigan of my youth, a few smashed pumpkins, a handful of tossed eggs, a couple of soaped windows, and some rolls of toilet paper draped over trees were the most devilish activities that occurred on Halloween.

And the very next evening, November 1, the 20-odd Catholic children on my block would all be found in Saint Mary's Church, celebrating the Holy Day of Obligation known as All Saints Day, from which Halloween ("All Hallows Eve") derived its very existence and its name.

All of that began to change around 1980.

Enter Jack Chick

I was in junior high school the year that I returned from home from trick-or-treating to find, hidden among the Butterfingers (my favorite) and Skittles (a candy I could do without), a little comic book that patiently explained why Catholics were not Christians. It was my first Jack Chick tract, but it would be far from my last.

Jack Chick is a fundamentalist Christian who first began publishing his little tracts in comic-book form in 1960. (For an exhaustive examination of Chick's background and his influence, see The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick, published by Catholic Answers.) Each tract tells a little story of a soul gone bad, often without even knowing that he has; he discovers his error over the course of the story, and on the final page, the reader is given the opportunity to "invite Jesus into your life to become your personal Saviour." He is then admonished to read the King James Bible every day, pray, be baptized and to worship with fellow Christians, and to "Tell others about Jesus Christ." One of the best ways to do that, of course, is to purchase more Jack Chick tracts like the one that has brought the gift of faith to the unbeliever, and to hand them out at every possible opportunity—including in lieu of candy on Halloween.

By 1980, Chick had published 45 tracts, and was fairly well known in fundamentalist circles, but not so much outside of them. That changed when he added a new topic into the mix: anti-Catholicism. His first anti-Catholic tract, My Name? . . . In the Vatican? (1980), made the absurd claim that the Catholic Church has a supercomputer that holds the names of all members of every Protestant church in the world, in order to make it easier to track them down and round them up in a future persecution of true Christians by the Catholic Church, which is headed up by the Antichrist, in the form of the pope. (Not all of the tracts that Chick has published remain in print, but Chick's website,, claims that any out-of-print title can be reprinted by special order. My Name? . . . In the Vatican?, however, is no longer offered even in the out-of-print titles.)

In the first half of the 1980's, Chick stepped up his attacks on Catholicism in such tracts as Are Roman Catholics Christians? (1981), Kiss the Protestants Good-bye (1981), Macho (1982), Is There Another Christ? (1983), The Poor Pope? (1983), Holocaust (1984), The Only Hope (1985), The Story Teller (1985), and The Attack (1985). Among other things, these tracts claim that the Catholic Church has tried to convince Protestants that Catholics are Christians, in order to Catholicize the Protestant churches; that communism, Masonry, and Islam were all created by the Catholic Church to attack and undermine true Christianity; and that Hitler was a good Catholic, who carried out the holocaust against the Jews on orders from the Vatican.

Only Nimrods Celebrate Halloween

Mixed in with all of this is an unhealthy dose of ideas drawn from a pamphlet published in 1853 (and later expanded to book length) by the Rev. Alexander Hislop, a minister of the Free Church of Scotland. The Two Babylons: Or The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife argues that Roman Catholicism is actually a form of paganism—specifically, a Babylonian mystery cult. According to Hislop, the Christ that Catholics worship is not the same as the Christ other Christians worship, but the reincarnated Nimrod, founder of Babylon, and the Virgin Mary whom Catholic venerate is really the Babylonian deity Semiramis, worshiped in Egypt as Isis, in Greece as Athena, and in Rome as Venus and Diana. True Christianity, according to Hislop, was subverted by pagan worship during the reign of Constantine the Great, and did not reemerge again until the late Middle Ages, and was not fully restored until the Protestant Reformation.

In a similar vein, Hislop argued that the Catholic veneration of the saints, particularly on All Saints Day, and the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory (emphasized strongly in the month of November, beginning on November 2, All Souls Day), is a modified form of Babylonian worship of the dead.

Given Chick's reliance on The Two Babylons, it should have come as no surprise when, in 1986, his series of anti-Catholic tracts culminated in his first attack on Halloween, in his 1986 tract The Trick.

Witchcraft, Human Sacrifice, Poisoned Candy, and Spells

By the mid-1980's, many parents had become concerned for the safety of their children on Halloween. The rise of the subgenre of horror movies known as "slasher films," such as the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises, combined with stories of serial killers such as Chicago's "Killer Clown," John Wayne Gacy, in the popular imagination. Scattered reports of candy laced with drugs or poison, and caramel apples embedded with shards of glass, never very widespread and entirely debunked by 2002 (see Is Halloween Candy Tampering a Myth?), led parents to inspect the goodies that the neighbors they saw every day had given to their children on Halloween night.

The Trick capitalized on this unease to advance Chick's attack on Halloween. A coven of witches is shown tampering with Halloween candy and performing incantations over it, leading, on Halloween, to the death of children and frightening changes in the behavior of others. Even though the children have been warned by their parents only to visit the houses of people they know, one of those kindly neighbors turns out to be a witch, proving that there is no way to ensure the physical and spiritual safety of any child who celebrates Halloween. Only when an ex-witch exposes Halloween as a "holy day" created by Satan to allow a worldwide conspiracy of witches to "provide additional sacrifices to him" is the kindly but evil neighbor's plot foiled, as the parents of the affected children accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and then convince their children to do so also.

The Druids Are Coming!

The worldwide conspiracy, however, is nothing new; according to Chick, who, in The Trick, cites Hislop's Two Babylons as his source, Halloween was first celebrated by the Druids, who offered children as human sacrifices on Halloween night:

When [a Druid] went to a home and demanded a child or virgin for sacrifice, the victim was the Druid's treat. In exchange, they would leave a jack-o-lantern with a lighted candle made of human fat to prevent those inside from being killed by demons that night. When some unfortunate couldn't meet the demands of the Druids, then it was time for the trick. A symbolic hex was drawn on the front door. That night Satan or his demons would kill someone in that home.

In other Chick tracts, similar accounts of Druidic celebration of Halloween are offered, and the jack-o'-lantern is specifically identified as a carved pumpkin.

Of course, as I've shown in Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?, Halloween—that is, the vigil or eve of All Hallows or All Saints Day, was first celebrated in the eighth century A.D., approximately 400 years after the Celts had abandoned druidism for Christianity. And the pumpkin, which is native to North American, was not imported to the British Isles until over a millennium after the conversion of the Celts to Christianity. Indeed, as David Emery, the Expert at About Urban Legends points out in Why Do We Carve Pumpkins on Halloween?, both the name and the custom of the jack-o'-lantern date from the 17th century, and it was commonly associated with Catholic beliefs and practices:

For Catholic children it was customary to carry jack-o'-lanterns door-to-door to represent the souls of the dead while begging for soul cakes on Hallowmas (All Saints Day, Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). 

Irish Catholic immigrants to North America celebrated Halloween by carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating, and, just as their Puritan ancestors had in England, Protestants of English descent in the American Northeast banned the celebration of Halloween (and of Christmas) not out of concerns over witchcraft and the "Devil's Night," but explicitly in opposition to Catholic practice. By the late 19th century, those bans had been dropped, and both Halloween and Christmas had been adopted by Protestant Christians of all stripes in the United States, but by the late 1980's Jack Chick had succeeded in reviving the earlier anti-Catholic attack on Halloween.

Happy Birthday, Satan

Chick's anti-Halloween tracts helped spread another idea that is ridiculous on its face: that Halloween is Satan's birthday. Satan, of course, is Lucifer, the leader of the angels who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven by Saint Michael the Archangel and the other angels who remained loyal to their Creator (Revelation 12:7-10). As such, he has no "birthday"—a fact that Chick actually admits in one of his tracts, though he attributes the casting of Lucifer and his demons out of Heaven to Jesus Christ, not Saint Michael, as the account in Revelation does. Yet that same tract, Boo! (1991), while getting the story at least partially right, shows Satan, wearing a jack-o'-lantern as a head, rejoicing that a bunch of high-school students are "coming to celebrate my birthday," before he mows 19 of them down with a chainsaw. The sheriff who is unable to stop Satan's bloody rampage finally gives up, praying, "May the saints preserve 'em"—a subtle yet potent anti-Catholic reference.

The Triumph of Chick's Anti-Catholic War on Halloween

By the turn of the millennium, Jack Chick had made great strides in his attack on Halloween, and not just among his fellow fundamentalist Christians. Many mainstream Christians, including a sizable number of Catholics who had themselves happily and innocently celebrated Halloween when they were young, decided not to let their children take part in trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities. The common reasons given came straight out of the Jack Chick tracts that many of them had received in their own youth: the supposed Celtic and Babylonian pagan roots of Halloween; the ridiculous claim that Halloween is Satan's birthday; the possible dangers to the physical and spiritual health of their children, if they are allowed to accept candy from the neighbors that they see everyday. (These have been supplemented in recent years by the claim that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI warned Catholics against celebrating Halloween—an urban legend that I've debunked in Did Pope Benedict XVI Condemn Halloween?)

Various Christian churches came up with "alternatives" to Halloween, such as harvest parties (which, as I've discussed in Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?, actually have more in common with Celtic pagan practices than Halloween ever did) and All Saints Day parties. But underlying all of these is the big lie that Jack Chick has successfully propagated: that there's something wrong or anti-Christian about Halloween, and therefore an alternative is needed.

By 2001, Chick himself had become something of a victim to his success. Halloween had been a very good time of year for Chick Publications, as fundamentalists purchased Chick tracts to distribute to unsuspecting children. But as Chick managed to convince more and more Christians that Halloween was evil, those who used to pass out Chick tracts quit doing so, and simply kept their porch lights dark on the "Devil's Night."

So, in recent years, Chick has changed tactics, announcing in a Halloween Letter on his website that Christians should not shun Halloween, but "Turn Halloween into a night of evangelism," as it was back in the early 80's, when I received my first Chick tract on Halloween night. More recent Halloween tracts from Chick Publications, such as The Little Ghost (2001) and First Bite (2008) have dropped scare tactics in favor of humorous stories.

Is Halloween Evil? Consider the Source of the Claim

Yet the damage has been done, and a whole new generation of Christians, including many Catholics, have been indoctrinated in lies about Halloween spread by a man who believes that Catholics aren't Christians; that Catholics worship Babylonian deities, and not Jesus Christ; and that the Catholic Church created Islam, communism, and Masonry to subvert true Christianity, and raised up Hitler to commit genocide against the Jews.

Catholic children do not need to celebrate Halloween to be good Catholics, though they should understand the true origins of Halloween as the vigil of All Saints Day. But if you're contemplating keeping your children at home on Halloween while others are enjoying a night of innocent fun because you've been told that Halloween is the "Devil's Night," I can offer only this advice: Consider the source.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Demon That Was Subject to Saint Abercius

Saint Abercius was the Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180). During a pagan celebration one day, Abercius shut himself in his house and prayed with tears for the people who worshiped lifeless and dumb idols. As he prayed, the Lord appeared to him and instructed him to go and topple the altars of the idols. After doing as he was instructed in the middle of the night, when morning came the angry pagans went to the house of the Saint in order to kill him. Instead of fleeing, Abercius went to the marketplace and publicly proclaimed the truth of the Christian faith over pagan superstition. To give evidence to his words, he healed three demon possessed men. When the people saw his words confirmed by the power of grace bestowed upon him, they listened to him, received the Christian faith, and about five hundred people were baptized Christians.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What Zombies Tell Us About Religion and Faith

By Karen Willows

‘There’s no more room in hell’ goes the famous line, lifted from Romero’s infamous The Night of the Living Dead.

For decades, the zombie has fascinated public consciousness and caught the imagination of authors and filmmakers. The zombie has always been a metaphor however, and behind the shambling walk and the slow groan, lays a wealth of commentary on modern society.

Religion Dispatches published articles that looked at what they termed ‘zombie theology’, indicating that discussions on decaying corpses and religion may overlap – particularly on the question of what it means to be human.

Zombies however, from their roots to modern incarnations, have consistently posed difficult questions about life, death, morality and the end of the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In Praise of Darkness

By Barbara Brown Taylor

“Darkness” is shorthand for anything that scares me — that I want no part of — either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out. The absence of God is in there, along with the fear of dementia and the loss of those nearest and dearest to me. So is the melting of polar ice caps, the suffering of children, and the nagging question of what it will feel like to die. If I had my way, I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love — if I could just find the right night-lights to leave on.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Saint Who Was Buried By Twelve Demoniacs

St. Andrew who is at Krisi (Feast Day - October 17)

Saint Andrew, who came from Crete, lived during the reign of the iconoclast Emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775), and at a young age became a monk. As a defender of holy icons, Andrew went to Constantinople to denounce the wicked Emperor Constantine Copronymos for taking a stand against icons and persecuting those who venerated them. As the emperor stood in the Church of the Holy Martyr Mamas, Andrew entered the church, stood before him, and openly rebuked him before all. "It would be better for you, O Emperor, to attend to military matters and to govern the people, than to persecute Christ and His servants," he said. For this, St. Andrew was beaten severely, tortured and dragged through the streets, during which an iconoclast struck him in the leg with a cleaver and killed him.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Elizabeth Krebs, the Founder of our Modern Halloween

By John Sanidopoulos

If you think Halloween has its origins with satanists and pagans, guess again. Elizabeth Krebs, a woman you’ve probably never heard of unless you are from Hiawatha, Kansas, is actually a very important part of our history with Halloween and how it's currently celebrated.

Back in the early 1900’s Halloween in North America was primarily one of mischief, pranks, and vandalism. This mischief was inspired by how Guy Fawkes Day in England was celebrated, that falls on November 5th, and this mischief initially took place in North America around Thanksgiving time in the late 19th century, eventually moving closer to the feast of All Hallows Eve on October 31st.

Elizabeth Krebs was the president of the local garden club in Hiawatha, Kansas back in 1912. On the morning of November 1st of that year, Elizabeth woke to find her prize-winning garden smashed to bits. There were other reports of havoc; fences being destroyed, houses egged, and windows being smashed. She knew it had to be the same culprits who had destroyed other flowers around town – rowdy children. In her town, kids were notorious for creating all kinds of destruction on Halloween night. Desperate to make her town garden-smashing free, Elizabeth put together a plan.