by Canon Mark A. Pearson
The Johnsons bought their home for a steal and soon found out why. All was not well in the new homestead! It was what some would call a “haunted house,” that is, a place where there was an uncomfortable and negative spiritual presence.
Some people are attracted to “haunted houses.” They’re different and exciting. Some such places are advertised, “Stay in our hotel. It has a real ghost!” Maybe such a presence is a plus for those renting out rooms, but for those owning such houses it’s usually anything but fun. Such experiences aren’t new. A sixteenth century prayer implored God:
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
What makes things “go bump in the night?” There are two, many would say three, distinct reasons, each with its own response.
1. Malevolent presence of Satan.
Demons are present and misbehaving. Sometimes they propel objects at people, move furniture about or make various noises. On other occasions they create extreme cold or nauseating odors or else provoke a deadening of one’s ability to pray. Satan can come at us physically, emotionally, spiritually. Why should certain places be so infested?
What infests a place with evil spirits?
One reason is that Satan was invited. Whether deliberately by calling upon him to come, or naively through innocently-intended games like the ouija board or tarot cards, Satan is invited to a place. Bishop Craig Bates of the Charismatic Episcopal Church told of former parishioners who saw an evil presence manifesting as a blue mist descending and ascending their staircase. The family had been into demonic board games. They rebuked the presence and it left.
A pastor in Iowa told me about a girl in his church. She was trying to mix Christian commitment with some rebellion. She conducted a witchcraft ritual in her home believing it to be “naughty but harmless.” For months thereafter she would awaken at night to see a horrible, ugly creature staring her in the face.
The Rev. Vernon Stoop, long Executive Director of Focus Renewal Ministries in the United Church of Christ, relates the experience of a parishioner. Every night their son would get nightmares. There was a “presence” in his room that frightened him. There had been a rumor that séances had previously been conducted in that house. Vernon relates, “We subsequently prayed through every room in the house with particular emphasis on the son’s room, praying in the Spirit.” The son never had a nightmare again.
Harold Hammond prayed for a medical missionary couple having unexplained problems. In prayer he discerned, “Egyptian gods.” The wife remembered they had brought home some “tourist trophies,” now packed away. “They retrieved them,” Harold told me, “and we prayed over these items to break any power and burned them. The problem went away.”
Another reason for a demonic presence is a curse placed on the place maybe as revenge for something the occupants had done, or as spiritual warfare against believers. Many church leaders relate how satanic leaders have told them, “We are calling Satan down upon you.”
Yet another reason might be the committal of murder, rape or orgies in those places. The demons that attend such evil may linger on.
What do we do in the face of demonic presence in a place? Take action!
What Do We Do to Fight Satanic Presence?
First, YOU get right with the Lord and others. Before you talk about Satan, repent of all your sins. Confess them so that Satan has nothing with which to accuse you.
Second, put on your armor. In a riot it’s not enough for a police office to own a bullet proof vest. He has to wear it! Put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18).
Then, take authority in Jesus’ Name. Command anything of Satan to leave.
Finally, pray for the filling of the place with the Holy Spirit.
I co-lead New Creation Healing Center in Kingston, New Hampshire. We bring together medicine, Christian counseling, massage, and prayer to minister wholeness in Christ to the whole person — body, soul and spirit. We find that too many things go wrong, we are too grumpy with each other and we find it hard to focus on Lord, unless we cleanse the building spiritually. We cleanse by going through it commanding any powers of Satan to leave and by asking God’s presence to fill the place. We use holy water and sometimes incense. Even non-believers comment on the sweet spirit in our building after we do this.
Additionally, with growing numbers of Christians and not just from liturgical churches, we ask an ordained minister to conduct a service of Holy Communion. While Christians differ in their theological understanding of Communion, all Christians know that Communion at least celebrates Jesus Christ being the Lamb of God Who died shedding His blood to set believers free. Celebrating Communion reminds us and the evil spirits of the power and authority of Jesus’ atoning blood.
In our times of cleansing our buildings we sing praises and the demons get disgusted and leave.
2. A masquerading spirit.
The malevolent presence of Satan is one reason things “go bump in the night.” A second is the presence of a demon masquerading as a person now deceased. This sometimes occurs when a person refuses to acknowledge a loved one has died.
Deacon Dick Lamb, long a leader in charismatic renewal in the Roman Catholic Church on Long Island, told me the story of a woman who asked her husband to come back and visit her after he died. She reported she felt touching sensations in bed and assumed it was her husband honoring her request but soon it was apparent these sensations were not comforting to her.
Charismatic Episcopal Church Bishop Michael Davidson told me of a Christian woman who had lost her husband. She said he “visited me, even putting his hand upon my back but the experience was ‘cold.’”
We can understand the desire of people to hold on to the presence of loved ones now deceased but we must let them go. We no longer set a place at the table for this person. After the initial period of mourning is over we give this person’s clothing to charity. We’re not to use euphemisms such as, “He’s gone away,” or “She’s not here,” but rather say, “He’s died.” This is why at the graveside I ask loved ones to put dirt on the casket now placed in the grave. It says graphically, “This person has died.” We can recount with gladness what they meant to us. But God has ruled out séances or any similar attempts at contacting the departed (see Deuteronomy18:9-12). The New Testament tells us that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20-21, Revelation 22:15).
How Do You Minister When There Are Masquerading Spirits?
How do you minister in cases like this? You lovingly but firmly encourage people to move on with their lives, letting the deceased go. Have a memorial on the anniversary of the loved one’s death as a way of transferring the honor and respect from an inappropriate holding on to a honoring of the one who is, yes, now departed.
You tell the survivors that what they are experiencing is not the presence of loved ones but that of masquerading spirits. “But he knows the details of our marriage,” a widow might object. While evil spirits don’t know everything, they do know some things, and if they’ve been assigned to monitor you they know a lot about your loved one and your relationship.
Frequently God will allow Christian loved ones to appear once, just after their death, to assure survivors that they are now made whole and in the presence of God. This is good and of God. But such appearances, when they happen, are singular occurrences.
As for the spirit masquerading as the departed person, Bishop Davidson wisely noted, “We bound the spirit after the wife renounced trying to communicate with the dead. She never had another encounter and joy filled her home.” You command the spirit to leave until it does.
Sometimes, however, the spirit is not a masquerading loved one but someone else. The Rev. Bill Blomquist, now of Texas, tells of an incident when he and his wife lived in Colorado. They were told by the house’s previous occupants that a little girl would walk around the house dressed a certain way. They themselves had seen her. One night, with Christian friends, they sensed evil especially in the basement. One of the guests went to a corner of the basement and picked up what looked like an old rag. It was a little girl’s dress, like the one on the ghost. “We had the discernment that the real girl had been molested down there,” he told me, “and perhaps the demon had integrated the girl’s trauma into itself as it roamed around the house. After this time of prayer and praise we never had a visit from the ‘ghost girl’ again.”
Whether the presence is of a demon masquerading as a loved one or that of someone else, we do not have to suffer this experience. We take authority in Jesus’ Name to command the spirit to depart.
3. The unquiet dead.
The malevolent presence of Satan is one reason things “go bump in the night” and the presence of a demon masquerading as a person now deceased is the second. Many pastors and Bible teachers across the church spectrum speculate the possibility of a third reason for unquietness in a place: the presence of the souls of unsaved people who died without being commended to the Lord. Their souls are trapped here until someone tells them to go to God for their eternal fate. They’re not demons trying to harm us nor are they spirits trying to enter into a relationship with us, but souls seeking our help to be freed from being trapped on earth.
In my years in the inner healing ministry I have worked with numerous women troubled with psychological and spiritual ailments. In some cases they had delivered a stillborn child or committed abortion. In most cases the remains of the child were discarded without either naming the child or commending him or her to God. Whenever we’ve named the child and commend it to God using the same prayers I use for deceased adults significant healing has taken place. (In the case of abortion the sin has to be acknowledged and repented of and God’s forgiveness has to be asked.)
Spiritually mature Christians with discerning gifts sense there is a presence in places such as battlefields. A retired professor, Walter Barge, told me that as a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam he was aware of presences as he flew over certain places. He later discovered each was a battle scene where many had died.
British missionary surgeon Dr. Kenneth McAll was once asked to minister to a man hospitalized with incurable cross-dressing/gender-confusion issues. He researched the family history and discovered the man had a twin sister who was still-born. The family never thought a funeral would be necessary for one who was born dead and the surviving brother was never told of her existence. A funeral was done for her. Some days later the mental hospital called saying the man had suddenly changed and was ready to be taken home.
Highly renowned healing leader Francis MacNutt tells us to “set the wandering souls at rest” (see page 267 of his Deliverance from Evil Spirits).
I’m cautious theologically so it took a first-hand experience of the unquiet dead for me to open to the possibility this theory may have some validity. Years ago I was ministering in Florida. Florence, a gracious, intelligent widow had heard me speak about the believer’s authority over darkness. She went to her priest, the Rev. Bob Doing, with her story. For years she had seen a Native American man standing at the foot of her bed each night. He was not threatening and did not speak. She told him to go away but he didn’t. In her bathroom was a woman kneeling, combing the hair of a little girl, and with another child standing nearby.
“How do I get rid of them?” she asked. We went to her house and did a funeral service from The Book of Common Prayer.
Lehigh Acres, Florida, is a new town, carved out of the high glades over which the Caloos native Americans had long roamed. We theorize long before Florence and her husband built their home there, this Caloos family came to a tragic end. Since our funeral for this Native American family the encounters ceased. Fr. Doing concluded: “I learned the wisdom the Church gained through the ages is right for yesterday and today and forever.”
There’s the theory: the presence of souls of some unsaved people who died without being commended to the Lord. Their souls are trapped here until someone tells them to go to God. Immediately a lot of objections will be raised:
Objections to This Theory
First, “Where’s that in the Bible?” This is the right question, but as “Bible-believing Christians” we experience many things of God that are not listed in Scripture. Where do we find in Scripture, for example, gold fillings suddenly appearing in teeth or the practice of having altar calls? While we must not believe or practice anything that is forbidden in Scripture, there are many things of God not specifically cited in His Word (see John 20:30). With anything that Scripture neither mandates nor forbids we must maintain a humility and gentleness, being neither dogmatically for nor dogmatically against such theories.
Second, “Maybe these ‘trapped souls’ are really demons pretending to be lost souls.” Maybe so, yet several people have told me that they use a burial service and get results when exorcisms or commanding in Jesus’ Name don’t work. Commanding a demon to leave will not change things if there is no demon to dispel.
Third, “What about Scriptures that say souls go immediately to God upon the body’s earthly death?” For one thing, they don’t say immediately. And, in all the occasions I’ve experienced or heard about from others, all “trapped souls” were those of non-believers.
Fourth, “Maybe this is psychological.” In some cases it probably is. People were working too hard or got emotionally drained and thought they were experiencing things. This is why I sometimes like to conduct a burial service without the people troubled by such discomforting presence knowing I’m doing it.
Fifth, “I’ve never experienced this.” Remember, we’re not saying every non- believer who dies without a commendation of his or her soul stays around, we’re saying there’s a possibility some do.
You will neither violate a commandment of God nor summon evil spirits if you conduct a funeral for a “trapped soul.” Remember, this is theory, although one held by a growing number of orthodox Christian leaders.
Irrespective of whether the theory is true or not, here’s what all believers can do with “things that go bump in the night”:
No Matter What, Here’s What We Can Do
We don’t have to put up with this! We can, in Jesus, take authority over “things that go bump in the night,” whatever their cause, and, when we’re spiritually drained, others can minister with and for us. Growing numbers of churches of all denominations have “house blessings” where Christians gather to pray against the things of Satan and ask God to fill the places His people inhabit.
Christians, be positive! Don’t focus on Satan. Focus on Jesus. Christians, be loving. Maybe the people in those situations where their houses are “troubled” brought it on themselves, but be humble and gentle in ministering to others. We may get into a mess and need their help next month!