The Cases

Zio’s Friend and the Smiler

Peter took one more breath of fresh air. He was reluctant to pull the open window shut against the uproar on 125th Street 15 stories below. It was the first time in history that a Roman Pope was driving through New York streets, and the very air was alive with excitement. The Pope’s motorcade had already passed over Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx on its way to Yankee Stadium. The crowds were still milling around. Some nuns scurried about like frenzied penguins blowing whistles and marshaling lines of white-clad schoolgirls. Hot-dog vendors shouted their prices. A dowdiry dressed young woman and her child peddled plastic little popes to passersby. Two policemen were removing wooden barriers. A garbage truck snorted and honked its way through the traffic. Father Peter closed the window finally, drew the curtains together, and turned back toward the bed.

The room was quiet again, except for the irregular breathing of twenty-six-year-old Marianne. She lay on a gray blanket thrown over the bare mattress. With her faded jeans, yellow body-shirt, auburn hair straggling over her forehead, the pallor of her cheeks, and the aging, off-white color of the walls around her, she seemed part of a tragically washed-out pastel. Except for a funny twist to her mouth, her face had no expression.

To Peter’s left, with their backs to the door, stood two bulky men. One: an ex-policeman and a friend of the family, a veteran of 32 years on the force, where, he thought, he had seen everything. He was about to find out that he hadn’t. Sixtyish, balding, clad in dungarees, his arms folded over his chest, his face was a picture of puzzlement. The other the closest acquaintance of Marianne’s father, whom the children called uncle, was a bank manager and a grandfather in his midfiftie red-faced and jowled, in a blue suit, his arms hanging by his sides, < fixed on Marianne’s face with an expression of helpless fear. Both the men, athletic and muscular, had been asked to assist at the exorcism of Marianne K., to quell any physical violence or harm she might attempt. Marianne’s father, a wispy man with reddened eyes and drawn face, stood with the family doctor. He was praying silently. Peter always insisted on having a member of the family present- at exorcism. As if in contrast to the others, the young doctor, a| psychiatrist, wore a concentrated, almost studious look as he checked! the girl’s pulse.

Peter’s colleague, Father James, a priest in his thirties, stood at the foot of the bed. Black-haired, full-faced, youthful, apprehensive, his black, white, and purple robes were a uniform for him. On Peter, with 1 his tousled gray hair and hollow-cheeked look, the same colors melted? into a veiled unity. James was dressed up ready to go. Peter, the; campaigner, had been there.

On a night table beside James two candles flickered. A crucifix rested between them. In one corner of the room there was a chest of ; drawers. “Should have had it removed before we started,” Peter: thought. The chest, originally left there in order to hold a tape recorder, had become quite a nuisance. Probably would continue to be until the whole business was finished, Peter thought. But he knew better than to fiddle with any object in the room, once the exorcism had begun.

It was a Monday, 8:15 P.M., the seventeenth hour into Peter’s third exorcism in thirty years. It was also his last exorcism, although he could not know that. Peter felt sure that he had arrived at the Breakpoint in the rite.

In the few seconds it took him to cross from the window to her bed, Marianne’s face had been contorting into a mass of crisscrossing lines. Her mouth twisted further and further in an S-shape. The neck was taut, showing every vein and artery; and her Adam’s apple looked like a knot in a rope.

The ex-policeman and her uncle moved to hold her. But her voice threw them back momentarily like a whiplash:

“You dried-up fuckers! You’ve messed with each other’s wives. And with your own peenies into the bargain. Keep your horny paws off me!
“Hold her down!” Peter spoke peremptorily. Four pairs of hands clamped on her.
“Jesus have mercy on my baby,” muttered her father. The ex-policeman’s eyes bulged.

“YOU!” Marianne screamed, as she lay pinned flat on the bed, her eyes open and blazing with anger, “YOU! Peter the Eater. Eat my flesh, said she. Suck my blood, said she. And you did! Peter the Eater! You’ll come with us, you freak. You’ll lick my arse and like it, Peeeeeeeetrrrrrr,” and her voice sank through the “rrrr” to an animal gurgle.

Something started to ache in Peter’s brain. He missed a breath, panicked because he could not draw it, stopped and waited, swaying on his feet. Then he exhaled gratefully. To the younger priest he looked frail and vulnerable. Father James handed Peter his prayer book, and they both turned to face Marianne.

Almost a year later, in 1966, on the day Peter was buried in Calvary Cemetery, his younger colleague, Father James, chatted with me after the funeral service. “It doesn’t matter what the doctor said” (the official report gave coronary thrombosis as cause of death), “he was gone, really gone, after that last to-do. Just a matter of time. Mind you, it wasn’t that he wasn’t brave and devoted. He was a real man of God before and after the whole thing. But it took that last exorcism to make him realize that life knocks the stuffing out of any decent man.” Peter had apparently never emerged from a gentle reverie after the exorcism of Marianne; and he always spoke as if he were talking for the benefit of someone else present. It was as exasperating as listening to one side of a telephone conversation.

“He was never the same again,” said James. “Some part of him passed into the Great Beyond during the final Clash, as you call it.” Then, after a pause and musingly, almost to himself: “Can you beat that? He had to be born in Lisdoonvarna” sixty-two years ago, be reared beside Killarney, and come all the way over here three times-just to find out the third time where he was supposed to die; and how, and when. Makes you think what life’s all about. You never know how it’s going to end. Peter did not become an American citizen, even. All that travel. Just to die as the Lord had decided.”

Peter was one of seven children, all boys. His father moved from County Clare to Listowel, County Kerry, where he prospered as a wine merchant. The family lived in a large two-story house overlooking the river Feale. They were financially comfortable and respected. Their Roman Catholicism was that brand of muscular Christianity which the Irish out of all Western nations had originated as their contribution to religion.

Peter spent his youth in the comparative peace of “the old Rritish days” before the Irish Republican Brotherhood (parent of the IRA), the Irish Volunteers, and the 1916 Rebellion started modern Ireland off on the stormy course of fighting for the “terrible beauty” that lured Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Eamonn De Valera, and the other leaders into the deathtrap of bloodletting, where, 50 years later, in Peter’s declining years, blood was still being shed.

School filled three-quarters of the year for Peter. Summers were spent at Real Strand, at Ballybunion seaside, or harvesting on his grandfather’s farm at Newtownsands.

One such summer, his sixteenth, Peter had his only brush with sex. He had lain for hours among the sand dunes of Beal Strand with Mae, a girl from Listowel whom he had known for about three years. That day, their families had gone to the Listowel races.

Innocent flirting developed into simple love play and finally into a fervid exchange of kisses and caresses, until they both lay naked and awesomely happy beneath the early-evening stars, the warmth undulating and glowing sweetly through their bodies as they huddled close together. Afterward, Mae playfully nicknamed him “Peter the Eater,” To calm his fear she added: “Don’t worry. No one will know how you made love to me. Only me.”

For about a year afterward, he was interested in girls and particularly in Mae. Then early in his eighteenth year, he began to think of the priesthood. By the time he finished schooling, his mind was made up. Peter had told me once: “When we said goodbye, that summer of 1922, Mae teased me: ‘If you ever leave the seminary and) don’t marry me, I’ll tell everyone your nickname.’ She never told a; human soul.

But, of course, they knew.” Peter’s sole but real enemies were the shadowy dwellers of “the Kingdom” whom he vaguely called “they.” He gave me a characteristic look and stared away over my head. Mae had died in 1929 of a ruptured appendix.
Peter started his studies at Killarney Seminary and finished them at Numgret with the Jesuits. He was no brilliant scholar, but got very good grades in Canon Law and Hebrew, which he pronounced with an Irish brogue (“My grandfather was from one of the Lost Tribes”), acquired a reputation for good, sound judgment in moral dilemmas, and was renowned locally because with one deft kick of a football he could knock the pipe out of a smoker’s mouth at 30 yards and not even graze the man’s face.

Ordained priest at twenty-five, he worked for six years in Kerry. Then he did a first stint in a New York parish for three years. He was present twice at exorcisms as an assistant. On a third occasion, when he was present merely as an extra help, he had to take over from the exorcist, an older man, who collapsed and died of a heart attack during the rite.

Two weeks before he sailed home to Ireland for his first holiday in three years, the authorities assigned him his first exorcism. “You’re young, Father. I wish you’d had more experience,” was the way he recalled the bishop’s instructions, “but the Old Fella won’t have much on you or over you. So go to it.”

It had lasted 13 hours (“In Hoboken, of all places,” he used to say whimsically), and had left him dazed and ill at ease. He never forgot the statement of murderous intent hurled at him by the man he had exorcised. Through foaming spittle and clenched teeth and the smell of a body unwashed for two years prior, the man had snarled:

“You destroy the Kingdom in me, you shit-faced alien Irish pig. And you think you’re escaping. Don’t worry. You’ll be back for more. And more. Your kind always come back for more. And we will scorch the soul in you. Scorch it. You’ll smell. Just like us! Third strike and you’re out! Pig! Remember us!” Peter remembered.

But a two-week vacation in County Clare restored him to his energy and verve. “God! The scones running with salty butter, and the hot tea, and the Limerick bacon, and the soft rain, and the peace of it all! ‘Twas great.”

Most of Peter’s wounds were not inflicted by the harsh realities of the world around him; but, deep within him, they opened as his way of responding to the evil he sometimes sensed in daily life.

Those who still remembered him in 1972 agreed that Peter had been neither genius nor saint. Black-haired, blue-eyed, raw-boned in appearance, he was a man of little imagination, deep loyalties, loud laughter, gargantuan appetite for bacon and potatoes, an iron constitution, an inability to hate or bear a grudge, and in a state of constant difference of opinion with his bishop (a tiny old man familiarly called “Packy” by his priests). Peter was somewhat lazy, harmlessly vain about his 6’ 2” height, and a lifelong addict of Edgar Wallace detective stories. j “He had this distinct quality,” remarked one of his friends. “You felt I he had a huge spirit laced with cast-iron common sense and untouched 1 by any pettiness.”

“If he met the Devil at the top of the stairs one morning and saw; Jesus Christ standing at the bottom,” added another, “he wouldn’t! turn his back on the one in his hurry to get down to the other. He’d back down. Just to be sure.” | In normal circumstances, Peter would have stayed on permanently j in Ireland after his vacation of scones and soft rain. He would have worked in parishes for some years, then acquired a parish of his own. But there was something else tugging at his heart and something else written in his stars. When he left for New York at the outbreak of the j Korean War in order to replace a chaplain who had been called up, he | recalled the exorcism in Hoboken. “Third strike and you’re out! Pig! * Remember!”

He remarked jokingly to a worried friend who knew the whole story: “ ‘Tis not the third time yet!”

In January 1952, he was asked to do his second exorcism. His effectiveness in the first exorcism and the resilient way he had taken it recommended him to the authorities. The exorcism took place in; Jersey City. And, in spite of its length (the better part of three days and three nights), it took very little out of him physically or mentally. Spiritually, it had some peculiar significance for him.

“It was a sort of warmer-upper for the 1965 outing,” he told me in 1966. “The ceremony lasted too long for my liking, was hammer and tongs all the way, almost beat us. But there was no great strain inside here [pointing to his chest].” And he added with a significance that eluded me then: “Jesus had a forerunner in the Baptist. I suppose; darkness has its own.”
Looking back on his role as exorcist today, it is clear to me that first two exorcisms prepared him for the third and last one. They were three rounds with the same enemy.

The exorcee that January was a sixteen-year-old boy of Hispanic origin who had been treated for epilepsy over a period of years, only to lie finally declared nonepileptic and physically sound as a bell by a team of doctors from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Nevertheless, on the boy’s return home, all the dreadful disturbances started all over again in a much more emphasized way, so the parents, turned to their priest.

“They tell me you’ve a ... eh ... a sort of a way with the Devil, Father,” said the wheezy, red-faced monsignor, grinning awkwardly as he gave the necessary permissions and instructions to Peter. Then, stirring in his chair, he added grimly as a bad Catholic joke: “But don’t bring him back here to the Chancery with you. Get rid of him or it or her or whatever the devil it is. We have enough of all that on our backs here already.”

It had gone well. The boy became Peter’s devoted friend. Later he went to Vietnam and died in an ambush late one night outside Saigon. His commanding officer wrote, enclosing an envelope with Peter’s name on it which the dead man had left behind. It contained a piece of bloodstained linen and a short note. Over a decade previously, just before his release from possession, in a final paroxysm of revolt and appeal, he had clawed at Peter’s wrist, and Peter’s blood had fallen on his shirt sleeve. “I kept this as a sign of my salvation, Father,” the note said. “Pray for me. I will remember you, when I am with Jesus.”

Peter was then forty-eight years old and in his prime as a priest. Yet in himself, he suffered from a growing sense of inadequacy and worthlessness. He felt that, in comparison with many of his colleagues who had attained degrees, qualifications, high offices, and acknowledged expertise, he had very little to show by way of achievement. “I have no riches inside me,” he wrote to a brother of his, “just black poverty. Sometimes it darkens my soul.” When his turn for a parish of his own came around, he was passed over. (Packy was dead already; but, some said, the dead bishop had made sure in his records that Peter would be passed over.)

Peter, in fact, was a maverick. The normal priest found him inferior in social graces but superior in judgment, lacking in ecclesiastical know-how and ambition but very content with his work. Sometimes his protestations of being “poor inside,” of having “no excellent talents” sounded hollow when matched with his stubborn and opinionated attitudes. Anyway, the normal bishop would take one look into his direct gaze and decide that his own authority was somehow at stake. For Peter’s stare was not insolent, but yet unwavering; it acknowledged the demands of worth but was devoid of any subservience. It said: “I respect you for what you represent. What you are is something else.” Such a man was unsettling for the absolutist mind and threatening for the authoritarian bent of most ecclesiastics.

Beyond the occasional funny remark, such as “The higher they go, the blacker their bottoms look,” Peter gave no outward impression of discontent or anxiety. A lack of self-confidence saved him from revolt or disgust. And he bore it all lightly. “Well, Father Peter,” one bishop joshed him as he left to do a three-month stint in London parish work, “off you go to hell or to glory, eh?” Peter laughed it off: “In either case, bishops get the priority, my lord.”

Had he raised protests and used the influential friends at his disposal, he would doubtless have retired in good time to the rural repose of a peaceful Kerry parish and the extraordinary autonomy of a parish priest. (A pope or a bishop approached any settled “P.P.” with care. Only his housekeeper could make a frontal assault on a parish priest’s autonomy. But, then again, Irish housekeepers were a race unto themselves.)

As Peter was and as he chose to remain-in strict dependence on ecclesiastical whims and never striking out to seek a fixed position-he was available to be tapped for a temporary visit to Rome and an accidental meeting that changed him profoundly.
After his second exorcism, there were ten more years of “helping out” in various dioceses, practically always on a temporary basis as substitute for other priests. And then a chance breakfast in late September 1962 brought him together with a West Coast bishop who, on his way to the opening of the Second Vatican Council in Rome, stayed a few days in New York. The bishop was well known for his sympathy with mavericks and his welcome for “hard cases.” Like all the bishops who went to the council, he needed one or two experts in theology to be his advisors in Rome. He needed, in particular, a theologian counselor skilled in pastoral matters.

The next day Peter was aboard a TWA flight with the bishop enroute to the Eternal City. But for that trip, he probably would not have been at the side of Marianne three years later. And he certainly would never have come close to two men who had a sudden, deep influence on the rest of his life. In Rome, Peter performed his duties as a counselor during his ten-week stay there. But what mattered much more to him personally and affected him deeply were his experiences with Father Conor and with Paul VI, then Monsignor Montini.

Father Conor was a diminutive Irish Franciscan friar, bald-headed, sharp-eyed, and voluble, who taught theology at a Roman university. I It- wore rimless glasses, trotted and never walked, and spoke with a very strong brogue which made his Latin lectures all but unintelligible.

I le held court for students, professors, foreign visitors, officials, and friends in his monastery room after siesta hour, three or four days a week. There, any bit of gossip in Rome could be learned, tested, and assessed for its rumor value. For half of Rome always feeds on rumors about the other half. And speculation is the stick which continually stirs the pool of rumor. “They till me, me frind, that . . .” was a frequent opening of Conor’s conversation.

Conor spent his summers fishing around Lough Corrib, Ireland, was an expert on Waterford glass, and had a lifelong fascination for all politics, civil and ecclesiastical, a fascination that made Vatican Council II appeal to Conor as catnip to a cat. He had studied demonology (“Mostly ballyhoo,” he pronounced in his thick brogue), witchcraft (“A lotta junk, if y’ask me”), Exorcism (“A mad bizniz”), and possession (“The divil’s toe-rag”). He served as a consultant to one Roman office that dealt with cases of possession; and on 14 occasions he had conducted exorcisms (but always protested that he “wouldn’t touch wan wid a barge pole, unliss they ordher’d me teh”). According to an in joke about Conor that always made him furious, he induced devils to leave the possessed by threatening to “send them back to Ireland.”

Outside Roman clerical circles, Conor’s activity as an exorcist-was relatively unknown. Indeed, he was regarded by his fellow clergy in Ireland as a bookworm and by his lay friends as a “grand, simple, innocent man, slightly dotty about the Middle Ages.”

Peter and Conor were approximately the same age. They shared a love of Ireland and a passion for Rome’s ruins. And Conor sensed in Peter a mind never tarnished by the baser ambitions he saw eating into those who gyrated and jockeyed around him in Rome on the political treadmill. He also felt Peter’s sense of his own worthlessness.

He found Peter’s exorcism experiences enormously interesting. For Peter had “the touch,” he used to say-a natural ability to weather exorcism’s storms. On the other hand, Peter found in Conor a friend of practical experience and advice. Rambling in the Roman suburbs, sitting in the cortile of Conor’s monastery, visiting the sights of Rome, sipping coffee in the Piazza Navona, they gradually assumed the roles of master and disciple. Peter put questions; Conor answered them. He explained. He theorized. He instructed. He warned. He corrected. He encouraged.

In the area of Exorcism, Conor had things reduced to a recognizable pattern of behavior: how the possessed behaved; how the possessing spirit acted; and how the exorcist should react and conduct the exorcism. During the long walks and talks with Conor, Peter crystallized his own first impressions and learned some valuable guidelines.

He had never realized the radical distinction between the perfectly possessed and the revolters. Nor had he understood the revolters as victims of possession who, partly with their own connivance, surely, had become hostage and were now trying, on the one hand, to give some sign, to summon help, but who in that struggle also became victims of a violent protest against such help-a protest made by the evil thing that possessed them.

Peter was able to adjust and correct his techniques immediately, even without conducting further exorcisms, once Conor explained that the major portion of every exorcism was taken up with shattering a pretense, dispelling a smokescreen; that the most dangerous period lay in the Breakpoint of that Pretense and in the clash of wills that followed at once between the exorcist and the thing that tortured the possessed; and that the “Grate Panjandhr’m” (Conor’s epithet for the Devil) intervened only rarely.

In Conor’s view, the world of evil spirits was like an autocratic organization: “Joe Shtaleen used to sind Molotov to do his dirty work. So the Grate Panjandhr’m sens his hinchmin.”

Conor taught Peter tricks and ruses; and he gave him tags-phrases, words, numbers, concepts-to label perilous phases, capital moments and events in an exorcism. He made available to Peter some of his own practices: the use of “teaser texts,” for instance. At certain awkward gaps in the exorcism, there was no way to contend head to head with the possessed and with what was possessing them. The possessing spirit literally hid behind the identity of the possessed. It had to be flushed out into the open. Conor had the habit of reading certain texts chosen from the Gospels, until such time as the spirit made mistakes or arrogantly threw aside its disguise.

Conor’s advice was always concrete and vivid, and always in Peter’s mind echoed with that warm, fresh brogue they both shared like a piece of common turf: “The t’ing is beyond yer mind. It’s a sperrit agin vnors. The reel camuflin’ starrts inside in yeh. And yeh’r just an ole toe-rag, unless Jesus is wid yeh.”

But, above all else, Conor reconciled Peter to the inevitable drain mi the exorcist. He explained in simple terms what wounds he could receive as an exorcist, what wounds he should avoid, and what wounds were incurable once inflicted on him. All these wounds were “internal” to spirit and mind and memory and will. Peter had received some minor ones already. He now realized what he could undergo.

Conor refined Peter’s primitive idea of “the Devil” and of “Devils,” expressing in simple terms what to most moderns is an enigma if not downright nonsense: how that which has no body can be a person, have a personality. And he dealt curtly with psychoanalysts: “Down the road a bit, they’re goin’ to find out that the whole thing is entoirely differr’nt; and then they’ll put Siggy and company up on the shelves as histhorical lave-overrs, like Galen on bones or Arishtot’l on plants.”

But it was not Conor who rid Peter of his lack of confidence. He could never give Peter a reason to trust his own judgment. It was the man who in two years would become Paul VI who made that change in him.

Peter never exchanged one sentence with Giovanni Battista Mon-tini, then Archbishop of Milan. Montini had been relegated from the Vatican to the political wilderness of Milan by Pope Pius XII, had survived it, and now was back in Rome-“still listening to his voices” (as the Roman wags described the ethereal gaze of Montini and the impression he gave of having shutters over his eyes to hide the light within)-and was deeply involved in the council.

One of Montini’s theologian-counselors was impressed with Peter’s arguments at an evening meal. They met several times afterwards during Peter’s stay. Once they went with Conor to a gathering of theologians who were discussing issues being hotly debated on the council floor. Such gatherings were frequent in those days; Archbishop Montini was the guest of honor at this particular meeting.

As Montini arrived and walked to his seat, Conor gossiped in a whisper with Peter:

“They tell me, my frind, that Johnny [then Pope John XXIII] won’t lasht long.” Then with a nod in Montini’s direction: “There’s the nixt wan.”

But Peter was not interested in future popes as such. For an inexplicable reason, he was fascinated by Montini. Everything about the man, his person, and his speech and his writings had a peculiar significance for Peter. As he remarked to Conor, “He seems to walk’] with a great vision no one else sees.”

He set out to learn all he could about Montini, speaking with those who knew the archbishop, reading his sermons, frequenting Montini’s familiars and employees. He even got to the stage of referring to : Montini as Zio, a name used affectionately by those around the archbishop.

Peter came to share Conor’s trenchant point of view on recent popes: “Pacelli [Pius XII] was loike a shliver of ice serrved up in an archangel’s cocktail at the hivinly banquit,” confided Conor wryly as they walked home one evening. “Awsteerr, arishtocratic, sometimes wid a dead-an’-dug-up look, y’know. Johnny [John XXIII], av coorse, is out on his own, a mountin uv sperrit. But this lil’ fella [Montini] has an airr ‘v thragedee.”

Peter made a point of going to listen to Montini whenever he was billed to speak in public. It was on one of these occasions that he had his “Montini experience.” Together with others present, he knelt to receive the archbishop’s blessing at the end of his speech. As Montini raised his right hand to make the sign of the cross’, Peter lifted his eyes. They locked with Montini’s at the juncture point of the cross the archbishop traced in the air. As he looked, the “shutters” over Montini’s eyes opened for an instant. Montini’s gaze was momentarily an almost dazzling brilliance of feeling warmth, communication. Then the “shutters” closed again, as Montini’s eyes traveled on over the heads of the others kneeling around Peter.

Afterwards, Peter knew that the empty feeling of diffidence had left him. For the first time in his life, he had no fears.
That was in mid-November of 1962. At the beginning of December, as the first session of the council ended, he was told that he had been freed from his obligations back in New York and that he could go home to Ireland for Christmas. After Christmas vacation in his home town, he worked in Ireland from January 1963 until August 1965.

He was winding up his summer vacation in July 1965 and preparing to return to work in Kerry, when he received a short note from New York telling him of Marianne K., a young woman, apparently a genuine case of possession. The note was urgent: the authorities felt he could best handle the affair. Could he come over immediately?

In mid-August he arrived in New York.

Toward the spring of 1964, and thousands of miles away from the calm .11 id fresh Kerry countryside where Peter was then living, the habitues of Bryant Park, in New York City, began to notice a skinny young woman of medium height wearing jeans, sandals, and a blouse, with a raincoat thrown over her shoulders. Her visits there were irregular; and she stayed for unpredictable periods of time, sometimes for hours, sometimes for ten or fifteen minutes, once for two days. The weather had nothing to do with the length of her stay; sunshine, rain, snow, cold made no difference. She looked clean; but those she passed got the rancid odor of unwashed hair and skin. She never spoke to anyone, and never stood or sat in exactly the same place twice. Always she had a fixed expression, a kind of frozen smile that was only on her mouth; her eyes were blank, her cheeks unlined, taut; her teeth were never visible through the fixed and smiling lips. Her blonde hair was usually unkempt. Those who frequently saw her nicknamed her the Smiler. Marianne K.

Her behavior was harmless, though erratic, at first. Some days she came, sat or stood without any motion to speak of. Then she departed suddenly as if on a signal. Other days, she arrived, gazed blankly around at every corner, then left precipitately. At other times she brought little wooden sticks which she ceremoniously stood upright in the earth, tying scraps of cloth with a single bow to their base. “Like little crosses upside down,” was a description given later.

Only once in that early time did she cause any commotion. She came to Bryant Park one morning, sat down for a while, then stood up stock-still facing south, with what could have been taken as a beatific gleam in her eyes. Someone passed by carrying a radio blaring music. As the radio came level with her, suddenly she flung her hands to her ears, screamed, spun around like a top, and fell hard on her face, her body twitching. A score of people gathered around her. A policeman strolled over with the unspeed of the New York cop. “Turn that thing off, pal,” he said to the owner of the radio.

Almost immediately a tall man was by the policeman’s side. “She’s Marianne. I will take care of her.” He spoke in a voice of authority and very clearly.

“Are you a relative?” the policeman asked, looking up as he crouched on his haunches beside Marianne.

“I’m the only one she has in this world.” The policeman remembered the man touched Marianne on the left wrist and spoke quietly. In a few seconds she awoke, and got quickly but unsteadily to her feet. Her face still had the smile. Together, she and the tall man walked slowly away towards Fifth Avenue.

“You needn’t report it, Officer.”

The policeman heard the words said evenly, confidently, over the man’s shoulder. “I was sure they were father and daughter,” he commented later in recalling the incident.

“He looked old enough; and they both smiled in exactly the same way.” 1

Nothing of a recorded public nature took place again in Marianne’s . case, even though she was already in a state of possession by an evil spirit.

No definite sign of that possession, unequivocal in itself, had been visible in her from her childhood days until well into the year following the incident in Bryant Park.

Marianne grew up with one brother a year younger than she. They spent their first years in Philadelphia. The family was then of lower middle income. It was strongly Roman Catholic and closely knit. Her parents, both of Polish origin and second-generation American, had no living relatives in the United States. Close friends were few. Neither of them had completed high school; and they had never found time for culture or much leisure for the finer things in life. Her mother was a quiet-spoken, firm woman who held a job and continually worried : about bills. Her father was a bluff, down-to-earth character who grew up in the Depression, married late, was solidly faithful to his wife, and never fretted about difficulties, and, outside his working hours, spent all his spare time at home.

Discipline was not rigid at home, and a good deal of fun and j merriment ran through it all. Both children were reared to lead an orderly existence. Religion occupied a prominent place in their lives. Prayers in common were recited mornings and evenings. Family love and loyalty were based on religious belief. The Polish pastor was the ultimate authority.

In those early years there was such a strong resemblance between Marianne and George, her younger brother, that they were often mistaken for twins. When their mother or father called them, either of them could answer by mimicking perfectly the voice of the other. They had special signs and words of their own, a kind of private language they could use. Marianne relied on George to a great extent. She was left-handed, had begun to speak normally only at the age of six, and was very shy and obstinate.

This close companionship between the two children was broken when, around Marianne’s eighth birthday, the family moved to New York, where her father had been reassigned by his company. His new position made the family financially secure and comfortable. Marianne’s mother no longer worked at a job outside the home. Her brother was successful in school. He made friends easily, was a good athlete, and had a rollicking disposition. In New York he gradually sought the company of his peers, and so spent less and less time with his sister.

Marianne made few friends and was at ease only when at home. She never seemed to prefer one parent over the other. After finishing high school, she spent two years at Manhattanville College, where her academic interests were physics and philosophy.

But her stay there was stormy and unhappy. She wanted the “full truth, to know it all,” she told her teachers in the first flush of enthusiasm. But with time she seemed to get cynical and disillusioned, and gave the impression she believed they were evading the real problem and hiding the full truth from her.

She found particular difficulty with her metaphysics teacher, a certain Mother Virgilius, middle-aged, myopic, high-voiced, exigent, a disciplinarian and member of the “old school.” Mother Virgilius taught Scholastic philosophy. She derided modern philosophers and their theories. Her arguments with Marianne were, from the start, bitter and inconclusive. The girl kept plying the older woman with questions, perpetually throwing doubt on any statement Mother Virgilius made, driving her back step by step until the nun rested desperately on her own basic ideas she had accepted but had never questioned. And Marianne was too clever and too tenacious for her, leaping nimbly from objection to objection and strewing difficulties and remarks to trip her up.

But clearly what Marianne was after seemed to be a trap of an odd kind in which to catch the nun. There didn’t seem to be any desire on her part to find out something true or to deepen her knowledge, only a disturbing viciousness, a stony-faced cunning with words and arguments alternating with a sardonic silence and smirking satisfaction, all leading to confusion and curiously bitter derision.

Virgilius sensed this but could not identify it: She merely stood on her dignity. But this was no help to either of them.
It all came to a head one afternoon. The lecture concerned the principle of contradiction. “If something exists, if something is, then it cannot but exist. It cannot not be at the same time and under the same respect,” concluded Mother Virgilius in her high pitch. “The table is here. While it is here, it cannot not be here. Being and nonbeing cannot be identified.”

As she finished, Marianne’s hand shot up. “Why can’t they be identified?”

They had been over this ground interminably. The nun had no more answers and no more patience. “Marianne, we will discuss this later.” “You say that because you cannot prove it. You just presume it.” “First principles cannot be proven. They . . .” “Why can’t I have another first principle? Say: being and nonbeing are inseparable. The table is here because it isn’t here. God exists because he doesn’t exist at the same time.” A titter ran around the class.

Marianne rounded on her classmates: “It’s no joke! We exist and we don’t exist!”

The general amusement gave way to hostility and embarrassment. None in the room, Virgilius included, realized, as Marianne reflects today, that by some kink of inner impulse, her mind was running in little twisted gorges of confusion. She was guided by no clear ideas, was not commenting from a rich store of reflection and experience, but was only pulled by a peculiar fascination with the negative. Many a greater mind had fallen off a dark cliff somewhere along this same way or impaled itself in desperation on some sharp rocks.

Virgilius, feeling already tired, was humiliated. She got angry. “I told you, Miss, we will speak . . .”

But before she had finished the sentence, Marianne was on her feet, had swept up her books, glared at everyone, and was out the door.

Marianne refused to return to Manhattanville. To all questions as to why and to all entreaties that she give it another chance, she kept repeating: “They are trying to enslave my mind. I want to be free, to know all reality, to be real.” She had nothing but contempt for her former teachers. But none of them could guess how far she had already gone in this contempt.

As she traces it now, her new path began when she decided that her teachers-Mother Virgilius among them-were phonies, that they merely repeated what they had been taught. There was nothing abnormal in this. Up to a certain level, Marianne had an emotional reaction rather normal in the adolescent. But she pursued it with a logic that was not normal for her years. And she was deliberately isolated: she did not communicate with her companions, nor did she discuss it with her parents. She was determined to work it out for herself.

Gradually she extended the same premise (“All authorities in my life are phonies, because they repeat what they are told and never inquire”) to her parents, to the priests at the local church, to the religious teaching she had been given, and to the habits and customs of daily life. To everything.

Her parents knew nothing of philosophy. And when Marianne spoke darkly of “how good it is to see all the ‘noes’ side by side with the ‘yesses’ “ or of “dirt on the nose of the Venus de Milo” or of “murder as an act of beauty as real as composing a sonata,” they were bewildered. They only knew that they loved her; but manifestations of that love were taken by Marianne as chains thrown around her. “If only you could hate me, Mummy, just for five minutes, we would get along so well,” she said once to her mother. At another time: “Why doesn’t Daddy rape me or break my nose with his fist? Then I would see my beauty. And he would be real for me.”

In the end, after much discussion and consultation, it was decided to send Marianne to Hunter College for the fall semester of 1954. Perhaps a purely secular school with good standards would satisfy what her parents could only take on the surface to be Marianne’s urge to acquire knowledge.

Academically Marianne never had any difficulty during her three years at Hunter. But the rhythm of family life changed around this time. And she took a totally unexpected turn in character. George, her brother, had gone away the previous year to study oceanography. He had been the one human being with whom she communicated on an intimate basis. Her father was more frequently than ever out of town traveling for his company. Her mother, who had taken up working again in an advertising agency, lost any real contact with Marianne by the end of her first year at Hunter.

Her contemporaries at the college remember her as a rather plump, grave-faced girl who rarely laughed, did not smile easily, spoke in a low voice, had few friends, never dated boys, gave the impression of great stubbornness whenever an argument arose, and (as far as they were concerned) was a “homebody.” But neither they nor her family knew anything about her first meeting with the Man.

During her first two years at college, Marianne used to go downtown and sit in Washington Square Park, reading her textbooks and making notes. One afternoon in 1956, as she was reading William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, she felt suddenly, but without any sense of shock, that someone was bending over her shoulder and looking at the pages of her book. She looked around. He was a rather tall individual whose face and clothes never impressed themselves on her memory. His left hand was resting on the back of the park bench. Her one clear memory is only of his mouth and the regular teeth she glimpsed behind his lips as he read repeatedly from the open page of her book the words:


“When you find a man living on the ragged edge of his consciousness . . .” running all the words as one sentence several times over and over again without pause or stop. The mouth kept repeating and repeating: “. . . on the ragged edge of consciousness on the ragged edge of consciousness on the ragged edge of consciousness on the . . .” It was done softly. Without hurry. Without emphasis. Until the words became a slowly whirling carousel in her ears, and her mind moved in circles, bumping against them on all sides. She burst into tears.

The mouth said, still softly: “They are all pushing you along the ragged edge. Want to get off it?”

She remembers a few things. She said through her tears: “I don’t want them to help me. Just to leave me alone.”

He sat with her for about one hour. The left hand remained visible in her memory. And the mouth. She remembers nothing else of him, except that there were instructions: “Don’t let any man touch you! You have a short time to reach your true self! Come and find me regularly!” And there was one peculiar instruction: “Seek those of the Kingdom. They will know you. You will know them.”

It was from this time that her family and acquaintances noticed definite changes in Marianne. She disappeared from home for long mornings and afternoons, even when there were no lectures or lab work at college. She spoke rarely with her parents. Her meals at home grew less frequent. Her contemporaries at Hunter noticed that she became more introspective, more fearful of strangers, more reticent with those who knew her, and extremely shy.

Her mother became worried. After much persuasion, she induced Marianne to see a psychiatrist. But after a couple of sessions, he dismissed her; he told her parents that, while she certainly needed more nourishment (she had been losing weight) and much love, he could detect nothing awry or dangerous in her psychology. She just wanted to be free; and this was, he said, the new generation. Anyway, he advised them, they should think of her age: rebellion and independence were normal for her age bracket.

Her father was satisfied. But her mother felt some deep apprehension.

“By the time they realized that I was in earnest about the change in me,” says Marianne, “I had already accepted the authority of the Man in my life. I had changed profoundly. I mean: my inner life-style altered under his influence.”

Marianne always refers to this figure as “the Man”; but nowadays it is impossible for her to determine if he was hallucination, deliberate figment of her own, a real person, or merely a metaphor and symbol of her initial revolt. Indeed, in Marianne’s memory of the nine years between that first meeting with the Man and the exorcism of 1965, the Man keeps on appearing and reappearing in her recollections. But most of the time, especially the last four years, is nearly a total blank. Only a few searing experiences stand out starkly for her.

Having finished at Hunter, Marianne decided to follow postgraduate courses in physics at New York University. Her isolation now became complete. After a little over one year at New York University, she dropped out, took an apartment in the East Village, and started working as a sales clerk in a store on Union Square. Her behavior, according to the conservative Catholic standards of her parents, was unorthodox. Marianne never went to church any longer. She lived sporadically with various men, did not take care of her external appearance, and spoke disparagingly-sometimes very rudely and with four-letter words-of all that her parents held dear. She did not allow them to bother her.

For their part, her parents worried greatly; but, following the hopeful lead of the psychiatrist, they still thought that all this was a temporary phase of rebellion. They did worry in particular about her health: she shrank from 130 pounds to 95 pounds in a matter of months. But, in great anguish and confusion, her mother ceased leaving food packages at the door of Marianne’s apartment, when the first one was delivered back smelling and dripping. Marianne had mixed excrement and urine with the fruit and sandwiches.

In her memory now, the next big step in her changing “inner life-style,” as she terms it, concerned formal religion and religious belief. She took that step consciously, with the Man by her side, and on two particular occasions.

One occasion was on Palm Sunday. In the evening as she passed by a church, services were being conducted. Something about the lights in this particular church aroused her interest-“It was in the nature of a challenge,” she recalls. She entered and stood among the people at the back of the church. Suddenly she felt the same disgust and rejection then as she had experienced toward her parents and teachers. As she turned to go, the Man beside her turned also. He had been there but she hadn’t noticed him.

“Had enough, my friend?” he said quietly, jocularly.

She saw his smile in the half-darkness, and smiled back at him. He said: “The smile of the Kingdom is now yours.” Then, as they left: “If you don’t like it, you haven’t got to lump it, y’know.” They both smiled. That was all.

The second occasion took place the next week, at Easter. An illuminated cross was set up on the General Building on Park Avenue. She was viewing this from the corner of 56th Street and Park Avenue, when she heard the Man nearby say: “Seems one-sided. Shouldn’t they turn it upside down also? Just in order to balance the odds? Same thing, really. Only in perfect balance.” The Man smiled.

“For me,” comments Marianne now, “it was a perfect smile. You hadn’t to balance it up with a scowl. Perfect for me then.”
At home that night, she found herself drawing inverted crosses side by side with upright crosses. But she could not bring herself to draw the crucified figure on either type of cross. Whenever she tried, “The pencil ran away into S-shapes and Z-shapes and X-shapes.” From that time on, there, started in earnest what she recalls as a “new color and form in my inner life-style.” Her descriptions of it are confused and marked by expressions that one finds difficult to understand. But the overall meaning of what she says is chilling. The whole process was an acquisition of the “naked light” and her “marriage with nothingness,” expressions she learned from the Man.

“I began to live exactly according to my belief. I mean, inside myself, my thoughts, feelings, memories, and all mental activity moved accordingly. I reacted to all things-people and things and happenings-as if they were one side of the real coin. And I rapidly found that all people have a powerful force in them-as humans. People, things, events, challenge us to respond. The way we respond gives the things we respond to a special quality. In a sense, we make them what they turn out to be for us.

“Let me give you an example that will also tell you to what an extent I pursued my idea. Once outside the Public Library on 42nd Street, on a sunny afternoon, a well-dressed woman passed by on the arm of a man. I was sitting on the steps, and she smiled at me. I found myself smiling back at them and saying by my smile (because I felt like that inside me): ‘You like me. I like you. You hate me. I hate you. See! It is all the same!’ She must have realized the same things, because the smile sort of froze on her face; but she went on smiling-as I did.

“Another day, I picked up a young man on Third Avenue. We went to his apartment and had intercourse. He was gentle; but when I was finished with him, he was a very frightened being. I guess I showed him a side of his character he never guessed existed. And I could see by his face that he was scared. I insisted he make coffee.

Drinking it while still naked, I told him how much I hated him and how much he hated me really, and that the more he loved me and I, him, the more we hated each other. I can still see the blood draining from his face and the fear in the whites of his eyes. He was obviously afraid of some trouble. When he mumbled something about ‘Hyde’ and ‘Jekyll,’ I said: ‘Oh no, man! Put the two in one with no switching back and forth, and you have it down pat. Jekyll-Hyde. That’s perfect. See?”

From now on, as she remembers it, Marianne’s development went in two quick stages. The first stage was very rapid. It consisted of a total independence. Except insofar as she needed them for survival or pleasure, she no longer bothered about anyone or anything. She had no more decisions to make about being morally good or evil; whether life was good or bad, worth quitting or worth continuing; whether she liked or disliked; whether she was liked or disliked; whether she met her obligations or shirked them.

The second stage was more difficult and went by fits and starts. It began with a near-adoration of herself. It ended in her “marriage with nothingness” and the fullness of the “naked light.” It became clear during her exorcism a few years later that these were terms that described her total subjection to an evil spirit.

She came to monitor her perceptions closely and scrupulously. At first she was fascinated by her perceptions; they came with a startling freshness, appearing to be utterly original in their source-her self. She became in her own eyes a genius with a single vision. She found the company of others exasperating and destructive. To talk with another softened the sharp edge of her perception; to do anything with another meant clothing herself in false clothes and not being wholly herself; to feel anything with anyone else meant she would feel only relatively, for she had to take account of them. Ideally, she believed, one should feel absolutely whatever one felt; whatever one thought one should think completely; whatever one desired one should desire totally. No concentration on self could be greater.

Before she achieved absolute isolation, whenever she returned from a conversation or a meal with others, or even after listening to a lecture or working in the laboratory, it was very difficult for her to regain “the inner space and the single vision” she had possessed before such contacts. She was left with a “double vision”; she was blurred, confused, and confusing in herself. She had to spend days “doing her own thing”-walking in the park (this she now did almost every day), sitting in her apartment writing page after page, which she immediately tore up and which she never reread; sitting or standing still for hours-until at last she was fully absorbed in the self that had been hiding. Then quite suddenly all the clamor would fade out. In the presence of that inner self all was naked again. And absolute. And secure. No longer was she interrupted or disrupted by the “bad flow” from others.

As she reached more and more permanent mastery of her isolation, she came to realize that the self she sought lay “beyond” and “beneath” and “behind” (to use her own expressions) the world of her psychophysical actions and reactions. Out of reach of the endless rhythm of responses, of recordings on her memory, of the fast-paced hip chatter of her companions, of blaring monologues by individuals. She became slowly more sensitive and expectant that she would find the self she sought, wrapped in semitransparent shadows. It was independent, she believed, of that distracting outer world, and of her inner psychic theater which was always at the mercy of that outer world and was so easily shattered by it. The restlessness of details had no place with the self. She came to believe that, if she could prevent the “bad flow” of others entering, she could achieve “perfection of personhood.”

“One of my big realizations was that in any commerce with others-a conversation, working with them, even being in their presence while they talked and acted with others-there were two levels of ‘flow,’ of communication.”

One, the “outer one,” was-as Marianne perceived it-the one with which she heard, saw, touched, tasted, smelled, remembered in images, conceptualized, and verbalized.

All of its functions could be duplicated by a skillfully built machine, a computer, for instance. A lot of it could be found in highly intelligent animals. But in human beings you couldn’t have this “outer” level of communication without the second level.

The second level of communication was, Marianne believed, a “flow” or “influence” from each person to another. And whenever two human beings communicated, they did so on both levels simultaneously. And they did so even if they didn’t know it or wouldn’t admit it.

Marianne had very definite ideas on the source of that second level of communication. Her academic training and her avid reading had given a very sophisticated edge to her viewpoint:

“The source was not the subconscious, not a sixth sense or telepathy or any of those gimmicky tags,” as she puts it. The source, she thought, was the self in each one. She said: “The self has a means of communication which does not need images or thoughts or logic or any particle of matter.” Psychologists and physiologists, she knew, identified the self with brain circuitry and synaptic joints and the mechanisms of sensation. This was like saying that the violin was the source of the violinist’s music. Religionists and spiritualists identified the self with “soul” or “spirit”-even with God, or a god. And both psychologists and religionists insisted you make choices. And so, in most people, that source and its “flow” were split into a kind of “black-and-white” condition. Most people were always choosing, responding, being responsible for their actions, saying yes or no, and thereby “fissioning the self’s lively unity.”

Rarely did Marianne meet anyone whose “flow” entered and left her without attempting to split up the self she had found within her. She remembers that the Man’s “flow” was absolutely right, that he even helped her to reach “the place of semitransparent shadows.” At other times, in the subway, on the streets, at shop windows, she would receive helpful influence from passersby. But she never managed to find precisely from whom it came. Her daily life became a series of efforts to resist the “flow” from all but those who, like her ideal, had the “perfect flow” and the “perfect balance,” who had “nothingness within them.”

She has vague memories of continuing to be instructed by the Man, of seeing him regularly, of listening to him talk, of obeying some dictates he gave. But one can glean nothing precise or detailed from Marianne about her instructions. Even an effort by her today to recollect such instructions of the Man produces sudden panics and fears that temporarily paralyze her mind. It is as if, today, remnants of the Man’s influence cling somewhere in the deep recesses of her inner being, and any effort to recall those days of her possession is like peeling the scab off a healing wound.

The end of her striving came one day in Bryant Park. She had entered cautiously, feeling the “flow” of all present, ready to flee if any disturbance came her way. He was sitting languidly on a bench doing nothing in particular, staring vacantly into space.

Sitting down at the other end of the bench, Marianne gazed vacantly on the passing scene. In the morning sunlight, beneath a sky cleansed by a light breeze, the traffic hummed with the busy purposefulness of other human beings about their day’s work.

School children and office workers passed by on their different ways. The pigeons were feeding. It could not have been a more peaceful city scene.

Then, in a quick instant, some tremendous pressure seemed to fall all around Marianne from head to toe like a net. She shivered. And then some invisible hand seemed to have pulled a tightening cord, so that the net slipped through every inch of her body and outer self, tightening and tightening. “As the net contracted in size passing through my outer person, it gathered and compressed every particle of my self.”

Marianne no longer saw or felt any sensation of sunlight or wind. The outer world had become a flat and painted picture neither fresh nor hot nor cold. And the movements of people and animals and objects were angular tracings with no depth and no coherent sound. All meaning was drained from the scene.

The only movement was within her. Bit by bit “the net, now like a sharp, all-surrounding hand, tightened, narrowing and narrowing all my consciousness.” At every moment, under that pressure, she was “opening up every secret part of my self, saying, ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’ to a power that would not take ‘No’ for an answer.”

And none who saw her, a young girl sprawled motionless on the bench in the sunlight, could guess that Marianne was becoming a casement of possession.

Without any warning the pressure ceased. The net had been drawn tight. She was held invincibly, securely. And then she realized, like waking up from sleep, that some kind of mist or fog was lifting from her consciousness, allowing her a new sensation. She now knew that all along-all her life-she had been very near to “dusk, an accompanying darkness.” Even as she once more saw the grass, trees, men, women, children, animals, sun, sky, buildings, with their indifference and innocence in her regard, she saw also this dusk everywhere.

The dusk crept into her, like a snake slithering easily and lazily into a favorite hole, bringing with it twilight rustlings of such “smoky transparencies,” such “opaque light,” and such “brightest shadows” that a thrill ripped through her whole being.
What entered her seemed to be “personal,” to have an individual identity but of such seductive repulsiveness that the thrill she felt stung her with a “pain-pleasure” she had never dreamed possible. She felt her “whole being going quiet, self-aware, dissolving all the cobwebs.” It was like falling in love with the open jaws of an alligator. Each splotch of its saliva, each hook of its teeth, each crevasse in its mouth “was animal, just animal, and personal.”

All the while she kept on repeating “yes” silently as if answering a request for marriage or a demand for surrender. Time seemed to stand still, “as a bestiary of animal sounds and smells and presences” gradually flowed into her consciousness and mingled there with the sounds of children laughing, the tones of workmen nearby calling out jokes, or snatches of conversation from couples passing along the pathway. All the sounds that had enlivened the morning when she had entered Bryant Park now seeped with “a new odor of .old and new corrupting things, of corruption.” The cool snap of the air and the sound of the traffic were marinated in a fluid of “grunts, snarls, hisses, bellowings, helpless bleatings.” The blue of the sky, the shining faces of the skyscrapers, the green of the grass, all the colors around her were, according to her memory, suffused in wreaths of black, browns, reds.

It was the “balance” she had always sought. “I have finally stepped into the locus of my self,” she reflected. It had always been there, of course. This was the wonder and the awe of it all. And the core of that wonder was “finding it to be nowhere, in a room with an empty chair that did not exist, bare walls that faded into nothingness,” and she herself “at last seen as a final illusion dissipated and annihilated into nothingful oneness.”

She stood up to go, overjoyed with her newfound “thrill of balance.” But she was whiplashed back to clamorous and unwanted sense by music from a portable radio on the arm of a passerby. The snake resting inside her had suddenly coiled like a whip cord and was lashing out at the attempted entry of any singular beauty or grace. She felt herself falling and whirling, falling and whirling. It was as if inside her head a little flywheel had broken loose and was whipping itself into a high-pitched scream as it sped faster and faster. The ground came up and hit her across the forehead. But the real suffering was deep inside her. “Never did I know such sadness and pain,” she said.

“When I walked away with the Man’s help, he said little. His words burned themselves into my memory: ‘Don’t fear. You have now married nothingness and are of the Kingdom.’ I understood it all without understanding anything at all with my intellect or reason. I said, ‘Yes! Yes! All of me belongs now.’

“Nothing was ever the same again, until after I was exorcised.”

It was not so much what Marianne had learned. It was rather what she had become. “I was not another person. I was the same. Only I was convinced I had become free by being totally independent and by what had entered me and taken up residence inside me.”

Just to confirm herself in her conviction, “at one point about twelve months before the exorcism, I did go to a psychiatrist-really to find out how far I had traveled from the ordinary idea of being normal. As he spoke, I realized that all he said, the terminology and concepts he used, and the theories he relied on were such claptrap, all this was only halfway house to where I had arrived. He was treating me as if I were a sick human animal-concentrating on the animal part of me. But he did not know anything about spirit; and so I knew then he could not understand the spirit part of me, could not understand me.


He smothered me in words and methods. Even tried some amateur hypnotic business. He finished up talking more about himself than me. “A second psychiatrist told me I needed to travel, to get away from it all-but this was at the end of a long session. Again, in this case, I found that nothing the therapist, a woman this time, nothing she did by way of accepted psychoanalytic methods (discussions, monologues on a couch, hypnosis, pharmacology, etc.) ever reached beyond the shallow level of my psychic acts and consciousness.


I always saw the therapist as if she were stalking around me fascinated by images and surfaces and terminology; and I saw my psychic self, this partial, puny mechanism in me, responding to her. All along, the real me, my very self which doesn’t deal in images or words at all, was untouched. Its area was never entered by the therapist. No psychiatrist could fit in through the doorway because of the load of images and emotions and concepts he carried about with him. Only the naked I enters and lives there.”

From now on, as far as any outside observer could have assessed, Marianne’s course was a deterioration. After the “marriage with nothingness” in Bryant Park, some fixed moorings seemed to have been severed.

She encouraged all forms of sexual intercourse with men and women, but never found anyone willing “to go the whole hog.” Lesbians generally stayed at the surface, wishing to generate pleasure and satisfaction without the necessity of a male. Men with whom she had anal intercourse suddenly became appalled, and usually impotent, when she proceeded to act out anal intercourse “to its fullest extent,” as she said. In her view, they wanted merely a novel experience but were quite unwilling “to achieve complete bestiality.” They could only take “a little of the beast.” They missed “the deliciousness of beauty bestialized and of beast beautified.”

The few neighborhood people who saw her with any frequency began to think she was peculiar. She rarely spoke. In shops she would point to what she wanted to buy or hand it to the shopkeeper with a grunt. She never looked them in the eye. All had a vague feeling of threat or danger, some indefinable sense of an unknown fire in her, as long as she stood near them.

Her parents tried to see her several times, but could speak to her only through the locked door of her apartment. Her language to them was littered with obscenities.

Once the neighbors heard dull thuds and crashes for four to five hours. Finally overcoming the reluctance of East Village apartment dwellers to interfere with anyone, they called the police. The door had to be forced. The smell in the room was stomach-curdling. And they could not understand the freezing temperature, while outside New York sweltered in the fetid humidity of high summer.

The room was in chaos. On the floor around the bed and table, in the closets, bathroom, and kitchenette, there were thousands of torn sheets of paper covered with indecipherable scrawls. Marianne was lying across the bed, one leg bent beneath her, a little blood dropping from the corner of her mouth, her eyes open and sightless. She was breathing regularly.
An ambulance called by someone arrived just when Marianne stirred and sat up. She took in the scene in one glance.


Quickly her face changed; she spoke in a normal voice, and assured them that all was well. She had fallen, she said, from a chair while fixing the curtains. “Police don’t want trouble,” she comments in recalling the incident. “And anyway, I radiated too much power and self-confidence. The only thing I wanted to do was to shout obscenities in their faces: ‘You missed it all! I’ve just been fucked by a big-bellied spider.’ But there was no point in saying that.” They left her alone.

During all this time, Marianne always smelled bad, and she seemed to have constant cuts and bruises on her shins and the back of her hands. She never displayed any emotion except when confronted with a crucifix, or someone making the sign of the cross, the sound of church bells, the smell of incense from a church door, the sight of a nun or a priest, or the mention of the name of Jesus (even when spoken as an oath or used in jest). Her brother, George, who later went around her familiar haunts, was told by many that at such moments she seemed to shrink inside herself like somebody under a rain of blows, and through the gap in her dreadful, constant smile they would hear growled gurgles of resentment.

Violence to others was rare. On one occasion a schoolgirl with a collection box for a local church cause, shook the box in her face asking for a contribution. Marianne screamed through her teeth, fell into a paroxysm of weeping, shielding her eyes with her hands and kicking violently at the girl’s shins. On the front of the box, she still recalls, there was a crucified figure together with the name of Jesus.

On the other hand, she repelled threatening violence rather easily. In the dusk of one October evening, at the corner of Leroy Street, she was accosted by a mugger. She remembers clearly that he made his first move at her from behind. She turned her face deliberately to him, displaying the full extent of that twisted smile to him: “Yes, my brother?” He stopped as if he had run up against an invisible brick wall and stood staring; he seemed unexpectedly and painfully bruised. Then with a scared glance, he backed away from her and took to his heels.

About May 1965 things were brought to a head. Marianne’s brother returned to New York for an extended visit. George was married by now and the father of two children. Visits back home were not easy to arrange. Their mother had kept him informed by letter of the rift between Marianne and her parents. But she had given no idea of the extent to which Marianne had changed.

Now he heard the full story. He talked with Marianne’s most recent employers and the few people who came into contact with her-her landlord, the grocer, and a few others.


He even went to the local police precinct. The news was bad right through. No one had a good word to say for his sister. George could not bring himself to believe the stories about the little Marianne he had been so close to. Some spoke disparagingly of her in a way that hurt him deeply. Others manifested a great fear and apprehension about her. One police sergeant went very far: “If I didn’t know otherwise, son, I would say you’re a bloody liar and not the brother of that one. This gal is bad, bad, bad news. And, besides, there’s something mucky about her. Doesn’t even look like a fine lad like you.”

George finally decided to go and see his sister for himself. Their mother sat him down in the kitchen before he went. George recalls now that she warned him “what ails our baby is something bad, something real bad. It’s not the body. And it’s not her mind. She’s gone away with evil. That’s it. Evil.”

George took most of this and much more of the same with a grain of salt: it was his superstitious and beloved mother speaking about her little baby. She gave him a crucifix and told him to leave it hidden in Marianne’s room. She said: “You’ll see, son. She won’t stand for it. You’ll see.” To humor her, George took the crucifix, put it in his pocket, promptly forgot about it, and went downtown to see Marianne.

It was the first time George and Marianne had met in about eight years. And he was also the first of her immediate family she had consented to see in about six years. Marianne was visibly delighted to see him in her one-room apartment. But George, sitting and listening to her talking slowly in a soft, staccato voice, knew immediately that something was indeed wrong with his sister, that some very deep change had taken place in her.

She was still recognizable to him as his sister-the mannerisms he had known in their earlier years were visibly there. And she still had the “family face” which he shared with her. But, as George told it, she seemed “to have seen something which constantly filled her mind even while talking to me. She was speaking for the benefit of somebody else’s ear, repeating what somebody else was telling her.” He had a funny feeling that made him look foolish to himself: she was not alone, and he knew it. But he could not get the sense of it all. He was not only puzzled by her behavior, but by its effect on him: she frightened him. George normally did not frighten easily. And he never had felt fear with any of his immediate family.

He was slightly reassured when, several times during the conversation, he saw glimmers of the personality he had known in their young years when they were inseparable companions. But at those moments she seemed to be appealing! for help or trying to overcome some obstacle he could not define and she could not tell him of. Then the wave of fear would come on him again. And he remembered his mother’s voice as she spoke to him earlier that day: “You’ll see. She won’t stand for it.” Partly out of curiosity, partly to satisfy his mother’s request, he decided to hide the crucifix in the room as his mother had asked him.

When Marianne went to the bathroom, George placed the small crucifix under her mattress. No sooner had Marianne returned and sat on the edge of the bed than she turned white as chalk and fell rigidly to the floor, where she lay jerking her pelvis back and forth as though in great pain. In seconds the expression on her face had changed from dreamy to almost animal; she foamed at the mouth and bared her teeth in a grimace of pain and anger.

George ran out and called her parents on a pay phone. They arrived about three-quarters of an hour later, bringing the family doctor with them. That night they took Marianne back to their home in upper Manhattan.

There followed weeks of nightmare for her parents and George. They now had full access to her. She lay in what the doctor loosely described as a coma. She would, however, wake up irregularly, take a little nourishment, fall into paroxysms of growling and spitting, was always incontinent and had to be washed continually, and finally would lapse back into the strange comatose state.

Sometimes they would find her wandering around the room in the middle of the night, stumbling over the furniture in the darkness, her face frozen into a horrible smile. Drugs and alcohol were ruled out as causes of her condition. Hospitalization was considered and rejected. Although she was undernourished, their doctor and a colleague of his could find nothing organically wrong and no trace of disease or injury.