I tend to be pretty skeptical about claims of the supernatural. I mean, in general I’m very much open to the idea of paranormal events. I argue for it, in fact. I don’t think we should dismiss the idea of miracles (for example) off hand as a reflection of some a priori assumption about what the scope of reality entails. I’m very much a believer in the supernatural.
But when it comes to specific instances of the supernatural, I’ll admit I view other people’s experiences with a very critical eye, which is why I know I’m putting myself out there with today’s post. Today, I want to tell you about a time when I encountered what I believe to be the demonic.
Now, because I am extremely skeptical of other people’s similar experiences, I completely understand if you walk away from this not believing me. I probably wouldn’t believe it, and so I don’t blame you if you don’t either. But, if you can, hear me out first, maybe give me the benefit of the doubt on my own experience (if not my interpretation of it), and then feel free to come to your own conclusion on it.
As a quick side note, I tend to be more of a rationalist than an empiricist.1 So, take that for what it’s worth. Anyhow…
Once upon a time…
When I was in college, my girlfriend (who is now my wife) and I used to take walks a lot. Our school was positioned in between a business district and a residential area, so when we weren’t window shopping on our walks we were perusing our way through the nearby neighborhoods.
Well, one evening we were out for a walk, looking at the houses and talking about… okay, I don’t remember what we were talking about. It was probably some combination of my girlfriend dreaming of our future together and me trying to be clever and impressive so she’d make out with me again. Either way, we were having a good time and enjoying one another’s company.
And then we walked past this one house.
There was nothing particularly unusual about this house. It wasn’t dark and ominous, it wasn’t overgrown or abandoned looking. There wasn’t anything particularly attractive about it either. It was just your normal, ordinary two-story house, like your find in most any middle-class neighborhood.
But as soon as we walked in front of it, my girlfriend and I both slowed to a halt and looked at each other. Whoa, I thought. What is that? The look of concern on her face quickly told me she was having the same experience.
“Do you feel that?”, she asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
If you have kids, I think this part will make sense to you. Have you ever woken up to your kid standing next to your bed staring at you? They weren’t making any noise. They didn’t startle you awake. They just quietly crept into the room and stood there looking at you, and somehow you could just feel them looking at you. In fact, often that feeling of being watched is exactly what wakes you up.
Well, that’s what we both felt. We felt someone or something watching us, regarding us. And if that wasn’t unsettling enough, it seemed to have an opinion toward us: hate.
Again, this was one of those intuitive things that we felt. If you’ve ever been married or in a long term relationship, you can probably relate to a similar feeling. There have been times when I’ve walked into my house and immediately knew I was in trouble. I can feel it. There’s an air (some might say “spirit”) of tension in the room. As soon as I step through the door, it hits me like a strong odor, Uh oh. She’s angry about something.
Anyhow, that’s how this felt. In the midst of what had been a very pleasant evening on a walk with my girlfriend, she and I were both suddenly overwhelmed by the awareness that something nearby hated us fiercely. I probably would have feared for my life if I could see anything around us that looked threatening. But, like I said, we were in the middle of a quiet neighborhood with nobody in sight.
So, being the good Christian college students that we were (and not really knowing what else to do), my girlfriend and I prayed right there on the sidewalk. After a while, that feeling of hatred toward us started to go away. I don’t know if the thing (whatever it was) backed down or went away, or if praying just took our minds off of it. Either way, we finished our prayer and walked back to campus.
And that was the end of that.
That’s it. That was my most vivid encounter with anything that I would confidently label as demonic. It was nothing fantastic. Nobody watching it happen would probably notice anything supernatural occurring. There was nobody spewing pea soup, no great vision of angels and demons doing battle, no dark hooded figure riding a dragon, or anything that would make for a good film scene. Just a very powerful, very malevolent sense of being hated by something we couldn’t see.
Hell, I don’t even know if the house we were in front of had anything to do with it. That may just have been where we happened to be standing at the time.
But, having had several years to think through the experience, I have drawn three things from it.
First, whatever it was, it wasn’t coming from us. One of my first self-critiques was to ask, Did I just make that up? Our minds have a way of playing tricks on us. So it’s not unreasonable to question whether or not it was just happening in my mind.
But my girlfriend experienced it too. In fact, she reacted to it—stopped walking and looked at me with concern—before I even had the chance to open my mouth. We weren’t being especially spiritual at the time (remember, my mind was on making out), and we weren’t feeling any negative feelings before it happened (we were having a good time up until that point). But something happened, and since my girlfriend was there to independently validate what I was experiencing, even before I said anything, I cannot escape the conclusion that, whatever the source of it was, it was external to the two of us.
Second, I think I can adequately describe it as a force. It wasn’t something that we merely observed, as you might expect of an external thing. Rather, it was something that acted upon us. It impelled a sense or feeling on us. It would be one thing to say that we saw something “over there” that looked dark and evil. But it was something that happened to us, breaking into our enjoyable evening with an experience that we neither wanted, generated ourselves, nor assisted with (we resisted, in fact).
Third, I am convinced that whatever it was, it was a person of some sort. Not a human. When I was reflecting on the experience later that evening while it was still relatively fresh in my mind, I remember being amazed at the intensity of the hatred. I mean, I’ve felt intense anger and hatred from people before. But it wasn’t like walking into my house and feeling a single person hate me; it was like walking into a school and feeling the entire student body hate me. I don’t think a single person could hate with that kind of volume or intensity. Maybe… but it would have to be someone with a capacity for hatred that goes beyond anything I’ve ever seen, felt, or could muster myself.
Moreover, hatred and anger are inherently personal volitions. Rocks and trees and dinner plates don’t hate. Even houses do not possess the faculties necessary to exhibit hatred. But people, or rather persons, can hate. Mice? Eh, maybe. Dogs? I would argue so. Humans? Most definitely! The ability to hate seems to increase in tandem with a creature’s innate personhood. So, whatever this thing was, it was profoundly personal and highly emotive.
So, there you have it. That was my encounter with the demonic. I don’t share this to try to convince anyone that demons are real or the supernatural exists. I’m sure if you reading this are disinclined to believe me, you can think of all sorts of ways to do so. (He’s lying. He’s crazy. He’s making this up so people will read his blog… or whatever.) But, for the life of me, I have yet to think of a better way to make sense of it.
Thanks for reading!
1: Only like six of you will even know what that means, and probably only a couple will know how that's even relevant to the story.