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Get Thee Hence, Satan

There’s little that irritates me more within the paranormal and esoteric realm (or any realm for that matter) than the notion of the devil, demons, or hell. As interested as I am in ghosts and associated phenomena, I fairly crawl out of my skin when so-called “demonologists” worm into the scenario. I can’t stand “true” tales of possessions or exorcisms. And, hilarious as I find it, I find the notion that aliens are dark messengers of Satan perhaps the most worn out and tired, sad old thing around.

It’s probably apparent that I do not subscribe to a traditional, Christian-based belief system, but I’m not completely certain that’s why I find Hellish things so unappealing. I don’t find it threatening in any way—I don’t think it’s scary nor even think it’s “evil.” It’s not even necessarily the Hell-thing itself that I find so repellant; it may be more in the presentation.

I sell used books online, so I spend quite a bit of time acquiring them at book sales, thriftstores, yard sales. Even though I have a nice little scanner tool that gives me information about their value, I have been doing this long enough that I can spot a potential score by spine alone. Strangely (and luckily for me), the most valuable titles are usually the most boring. Most thrift store-goers aren’t really looking for some light reading about economic evaluation criteria of clinical trials. So, of course, I get a cheap little thrill when I come across a very boring title like this. But I do too, when I come across anything with the word Hell in it.

They’re not really hugely valuable, but they’re a sure shot; they always sell extremely quickly. I don’t think I have ever had a book with the word Hell in the title for over 24 hours; they fly off my shelves then through the postal system like things possessed. From what I can tell, they seem to be Christian cautionary tales: near death experiences, bad visions, etc. It’s not pretty. Hell sells, and I’m the middle man.

After flipping through one of these rascals the other day, I was reminded of something I hadn’t thought about for probably decades—Mike Warnke. That name will either be completely foreign or you’ll just know, in which case, you may have spent some time in the Bible belt. Mike Warnke was quite the buzz among born-again society in the 1980s.

I was given his hammered, falling-apart book called Satan Seller by a friend in 10th grade. She also presented me with some cassettes, which were almost inaudible; now I realize the lack of audio quality was because they were probably 8th generation tapes. That was the pass-it-on nature of Mike Warnke’s popularity. Of course, believers would be inclined to ascribe that popularity to Truth and the power of Jesus, redemption, salvation. You see, Warnke’s wild tales told of his former misguided misadventures and shameful shenanigans as a “Satanic High Priest,” occultist, drug dealer, etc. He was the baddest of the bad, evilest of evil. People loved it.

Warnke has been debunked long ago—he made everything up. Obviously, stories don’t have to be true to be powerful, and Warnke’s is certainly a powerful one—essentially a custom-tailored Hero Journey. But, I believe his appeal may more have been that he presented a safe, condoned way for Christians to explore the ultimate fear and threat of the Enemy Satan, the dark side, and all the power and glamour associated with it. The evil deeds are just as important and entertaining as the saving, the redemption. The exploration of the Shadow Self is inevitable and necessary.

So, why am I so dismissive and irritated by the devil, demons, and Hell in a paranormal context? As I said before, it’s not as simple as not believing in it. It has to do with the presentation; oftentimes, there’s a big ego going on with the one presenting, there’s a lot of focus on fear, and it seems canned and rehashed. But most of all—I simply don’t find a traditional take on Hell and evil to fit within a paranormal category; by definition it’s within an established religious category, and full of explanations, reasons, protocols, rules, the ultimate. Quite the opposite of how we generally define the paranormal. Ironically, this may actually be why established religion is seemingly intrinsic to the paranormal—it provides some of the poles to float between.

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