The Suburban Exorcists
Riding shotgun with a small team of people who fight demon possession.
A REPUTATION IN HELL
by Tess Ingram
His eyes snapped shut as his head dropped. A moment of calm preceded a sinister hissing sound that gradually transformed into a low growl. All of a sudden his arms shot out at absurd angles as if he was trying to snap them off. Two team members leapt from their seats and grabbed his limbs to prevent them from extending too far, fighting against the man’s strength and apparent determination. The growl turned into a fierce yell and from beneath his lids eyes as black as an onyx flickered alive. This screaming and writhing continued for a seemingly-forever ten minutes until, all of a sudden, he slumped with his head bowed like a defeated child. The demon was gone.
Seeing something like this has the power to force even the deepest non-believers to question, does the supernatural exist?
But does seeing really mean believing?
I didn’t believe and so I put my hand up to see it, twice.
A small group called Set Right perform deliverance on people suffering from demonic possession. They conduct their work, full-time and free of charge from their leader Michelle Pecoult’s home in quiet, suburban Perth.
“As far as strange things occurring we have had levitation, slithering, jumping and somersaults. Contortions, changing colour, more than one voice coming out of their mouth… We’ve had all the clichés.”
The key members of the team are Michelle and her husband Vincent, and three others - Amanda, Leslie and Amy. They are non-denominational “bible believing” Christians who say they had their work thrust upon them by God.
“We had our normal Saturday night bible study group and God was telling me that he wanted to do something different with us, supernatural was his word,” Michelle says.
A few weeks later, a demon manifested at a group gathering and for the three years since, the group has been kept busy with increasing ‘demon activity’.
“Demons are there to rob, kill and destroy. When they are in a person, that’s their job. When they have been caught, it’s like someone who has stolen a vehicle, they take off and try and kill the body. It was a case of us doing something or that person losing their life. So we did something about it.”
The ritual of exorcism dates back to the 14th century and has been documented in many cultures and religions. Set Right prefer to call it deliverance because they don’t use the straps or other tools associated with the popular idea of exorcism.
Regardless, both of the exorcisms I witnessed were frightening. At least three team members work on one person in case the demon that manifests is strong or dangerous. They begin by talking to the person, then summoning the demon and commanding it to speak. They talk with it for a while before commanding it to leave in the name of Jesus Christ. Most of the time, the demon puts up a fight.
“They manifest in what they actually are. We have had one stop a person breathing, which was the demon of death. That was scary the first time it happened but we kept going and we cast it out,” Leslie recalls.
“The one which I personally found stressful the first time was the manifestation of a stroke,” Vince adds. “That was daunting because when you see the person’s face distort you have to wonder if it’s the demon manifesting or if it’s the person really having a stroke. But the person was there trying to tell us it was ok so we continued and we cast it out, but I would say that was one of the worst experiences for me.”
"There was one that said, Leslie I’m going to come over there and kill you..."
Michelle says the demons used to cause the group a lot of trouble when they first started deliverance, but learning about the different types of demons and how to handle them - through trial and error mostly - has led the team to have a fierce reputation.
“We learnt the hard way, we were put through boot camp… But they know now that regardless of the fight we will win,” she chuckles, somewhat disconcertingly.
“We’ve got a reputation in hell basically.”
The group told me stories of people clawing up walls, speaking in ancient tongues for the first time in their lives, having conversations with themselves in different voices and one particularly startling story of a 12 year-old girl levitating with some much strength it took six people to pull her down.
Many have even threatened to kill them.
“There was one that said, Leslie I’m going to come over there and kill you and I said, bring it then,” Leslie tells. “And the person dropped to their hands and knees and started crawling across the floor. He didn’t make it across to me but it’s a freaky moment when for the first time, a demon will actually come up and call you by name. Someone that has never met you before.”
“We’ve had someone in here from New Zealand who somehow ended up with a demon who went through Hitler’s crowd,” Michelle adds.
“The demon came up in here and started speaking German, fluently. We got it all on record and got it translated but that person didn’t know German and they were absolutely shocked to hear themselves speaking in German and hailing Hitler.
"I mean you have those moments, especially in the beginning where you’re like, ‘Are all these people putting it on? Are they coming here for a joke, what’s going on?’"
“When that sort of thing starts happening you can’t deny it, you know. I think for all us seeing that sort of thing repetitively was like, it’s clearly true. I mean you have those moments, especially in the beginning where you’re like, ‘Are all these people putting it on? Are they coming here for a joke, what’s going on?’
“You get to the point where you see it so much and it’s happening so regularly and you’ve got to believe it. People have accused us of setting it up, but have we got nothing better to do? Why would you do that anyway, you wouldn’t want to mess with it? It’s sick.”
According to Set Right, you have demons. Yep, you, me and everyone we know. Allegedly any sin summons a demon and demons can be passed down for four generations. So any or all of 32 people above you in your mighty family tree might have laden you down with demons.
You can also get a demon from watching television, listening to music, playing video games, practising other religions or doing yoga.
It may sound a bit far-fetched but Michelle and her team say it explains why each generation seems to be becoming more violent and disconnected than the last.
“The world is becoming more and more evil because the ‘common sense’ is becoming more and more demonic. The ‘common sense’ is not sense anymore.”
Need more convincing? Set Right believe that most celebrities have demons. Nikki Minaj and her alter egos (or demons if you like) - Roman, Barbie and Martha. Beyonce and Sasha Fierce. Eminem and Slim Shady. Lady Gaga, Janet and Michael Jackson… the list goes on.
“Us saying this shouldn’t be a revelation,” Michelle insists. “The stars are all saying it. They’ve all got demons and they’ve all got problems and they’re all saying the same thing - that they had to sell their soul to the devil to be famous. Katy Perry said it. They’re all saying it because it’s true, that’s how you get there. Because it is ruled now by satanic forces.
“They are doing it because they are satanic worshippers and they know they can inundate the society with this stuff through music, through television.
“The kids get really involved, they want to be like that. When the Twilight series came out the Vampire cults all around the world started seriously complaining because they had so many teenyboppers suddenly wanting to become vampires. And to become a vampire in a vampire cult you’ve got to summon a blood drinking, flesh eating demon. They exist and I have the scars to prove it.”
You could argue, as Set Right does, that manifestation and deliverance of demons exists and occurs nightly in the Pecoult home. Or, you could argue that the people that seek help from Set Right have medical conditions that result in them believing they are possessed and seeking any possible cure.
It’s possible that what I witnessed was a demon leaving a body and going to hell. It’s also possible I witnessed an unwell person doing their best to “cast out” their problems; releasing and screaming and letting go.
There’s no obvious answer or blatant proof that demons exist. It’s simply what you choose to believe.
However, justifying someone turning blue and levitating… that’s a harder argument.