As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog entry, until I watched “The Exorcist” in late high school, I was more or less skeptical about the possibility of demonic possession. However, I did witness, what I to this day believe was an exorcism as a child in post-Soviet Moldova. Walking past a Russian Orthodox church dedicated to St. Theodore of Amasea, I was both attracted and startled by a scene in the church’s courtyard.
A middle-aged woman clad in all black, was screaming hysterically and writhing around on the ground, while the priest intoned prayers and sprinkled holy water on her. Her screams were horrific – the worst sound I’ve heard to this day. And it wasn’t the high-pitched or hysterical notes in her yelling. No, the eeriest part was the fact that some sort of alien quality was present in her yells. It sounded almost animalistic.
The next time I encountered something similar was in law school, during my internship for a small criminal defense firm. I accompanied one of the attorneys to a visit with a client who was incarcerated while awaiting trial. She was charged with the brutal murder of her own sister, so brutal that I will spare the readers’ equilibrium and appetite by omitting any details of the murder. Suffice to say, even seasoned, hard-boiled homicide prosecutors flinched when talking about the case.
At a court appearance before she pled guilty, her lawyer and I waited for her to be brought out to the courtroom from the holding cells in the back. All of the sudden, ferocious, blood-curdling screams erupted in the back of the courtroom. The defendant’s banshee-like yells, with their eerie and sinister ferocity were second only to those I heard decades before, outside that church in Moldova. I’ll never forget the stunned and blanched faces of the attorneys and court officers. And this was one of the busiest criminal courthouses in the nation, one that dealt with all kinds of human misery and tragedy on a daily basis, with scores of thousands of cases a year.