After about a quarter of an hour of conversation, Jamsie concluded that his boss’s eyes were completely closed to him. Jay Beedem laughed, glanced, conveyed meanings, and questioned him with his eyes, but all this seemed to be as revealing as images skipping across a film screen. There is no feeling there, thought Jamsie to himself. No real feeling. At least, I can’t see any. Each smile and laugh was only on Beedem’s mouth. He did not seem really smiling or laughing.

Jamsie really does not have any fully satisfying answers about Jay Beedem, even today. In retrospect, he will still say that the vague impression he had of having seen Beedem’s face before he met him in the flesh came from the traits of that “funny-
lookin” face” reflected in Beedem’s face. In fact, one important element of the exorcism, recorded on the tape, has to do with the strange face of Beedem and the “look.”

Ponto always kept in the background when Beedem was with Jamsie. And whenever Jamsie approached Beedem for a discussion or for help or encouragement, he left Beedem in the same sort of inner torment and turmoil that gripped him during his worst moments with Ponto. The keynote of that turmoil was panic, the panic of someone finding himself trapped or ambushed or betrayed.

While it remains speculation, a very good case can be made for Jay Beedem being one of the perfectly possessed, a person who at some time in his career made one clear, definitive decision to accept possession, who never went back on that decision in any way, and who came under the total control of an evil spirit. It was on this very suspicion that, in the exorcism, Father Mark felt he must try to see if there was some link between Beedem and Ponto that was harmful to Jamsie.

But when Jamsie left Beedem that first day, all the problems he still speculates about today were then in the future. Over the next days and weeks he settled easily into a daily routine. He loved San Francisco. He liked his new post. He got on well with his fellow workers; they respected his abilities and he never let them down professionally. He had pleasant relations with Cloyd, his producer, and with Lila Wood, the chief researcher on Cloyd’s staff. With Jay Beedem his relations were correct and formal. But as time went on Beedem made no secret of his growing dislike and contempt for Jamsie’s peculiarities.

Their colleagues, who noticed the ill-feeling between the two men, put the whole thing down to a difference in temperament between them: they just did not get on well together. Everyone else easily forgave Jamsie’s idiosyncrasies, for he had developed a broadcasting style all his own, “and it was good for business.” Jamsie was not slow to recognize that he had Ponto to thank for much of that.

Uncle Ponto would gyrate around him in the studio saying irrelevant things only Jamsie could hear. He would produce statistics, figures, facts, and data which Jamsie would automatically incorporate into his patter of broadcasting, keeping up an incredible stream of banter. It was bright and amusing, a cheery-beery-bee kind of prattle full of various irrelevancies about this, that, and the other, all strung together with “but” and “whereas” and “lest I forget it” and “as the actress said to the bishop” and “let me tell you before you forget you ever heard me talk,” until after about three minutes he would throw in a punch line about a product he was advertising or a ball game he was reporting or some bit of national news the station wanted to highlight. This style became his signature, well known and valued, on the air. For the first few months in San Francisco, therefore, Jamsie secretly valued Ponto’s presence.

It was only after a protracted period that he saw the first sign of real trouble. On his way home one evening Ponto, on the back seat of the car, said: “Jamsie, let’s get married.”

Taking this as just a part of Ponto’s usual nonsensical prattle-of which there was always quite a lot in those days-Jamsie thought Ponto would prattle on to something else if he kept quiet. But Ponto was serious, and he said so.

“Jamsie! I’m serious. Let’s get married.”

Goose pimples started on Jamsie’s arms and legs. For the first time, Jamsie began to be seriously afraid of Ponto. He drove on in silence, but his mind was full of a new apprehension.

The next day in the station cafeteria Jamsie was joined at the table by Lila Wood, Cloyd’s researcher. Ponto was somewhere among the coffee urns, gazing quietly at Jamsie. Lila, like others, had noticed Jamsie’s deep depression that day. But, as she says, she also sensed the grain of fear running through him.

Knowing better than to tackle Jamsie head-on, she said lightly as she rose after lunch:

“Wanta share a steak tonight with a friend and me?”

It was the first time in a long while that anyone had approached Jamsie so nonchalantly. He had become accustomed to people avoiding him socially. He looked at Lila in disbelief. But Lila knew how to deal with the situation. “Okay,” she said as she turned away smiling. “See you at 5:30.”

Jamsie stared after her. Her voice, or something in her voice, affected him. As he said afterward, “It was like a short chord of beautiful harmony struck in between the squalling of 200 squabbling cats and ten jackhammers all going at the same time.”
But his reverie lasted a short time. Ponto’s voice broke in with a new sharpness. “I heard all that. Heard all of it. That smelly young bitch. Do you know her friend? You will. I do! A balding pig. That’s him. Isn’t man enough to get between her legs even.”

For just a few moments Jamsie felt impervious to Ponto’s corroding accents, and it was a very great relief. He just smiled at Ponto. Ponto’s face twisted in anger; and, with a sort of a leap backward and upward, he disappeared.

Immediately Jamsie felt a solid lump of agony within him. This was something new. It started somewhere around his middle. Then it moved to his spine. One spike of pain hit his coccyx, another pierced his testicles, a third prodded up through his spinal column; and from the nape of his neck it seemed to branch outward in two directions. One stream invaded his lungs.


He grew short of breath and felt dizzy. Another stream reached upward into his skull and gripped his brain, as though contracting it. He remained sitting for a few minutes, his chin in his hand, waiting. It passed.

As he stood up, he heard Ponto’s voice. “You see, pal! You see! You already belong to me in great part. Watch it tonight!” Ponto was not visible, but the smell was there.

That evening Jamsie went home with Lila. She had just prepared three steaks when her friend rang at the front door. Jamsie opened the door to a stoutish man, completely bald, whose blue eyes looked at him with an expression of good humor.
“I’m Father Mark, Lila’s friend. You must be Jamsie. She told me about you. Glad to see you.”

As Jamsie found out, Lila had an ulterior motive for the invitation. Before the evening was out, Jamsie was talking freely to Mark. Mark’ seemed to know all about Ponto’s behavior. The only thing he did not know was Ponto’s name; and when Jamsie told him, he gave a short little laugh and said: “Good God! I thought I’d heard them all. But-Ponto! God!”

The two men made an appointment to meet the following evening. Mark even promised he would make some of his own special mushroom soup for which he was so well known among his friends.

After that mushroom soup dinner at Mark’s rectory, Jamsie told Mark his life story, omitting nothing. Mark listened in silence, puffing a long church warden’s pipe that reeked of tar, and interrupting now and again with a question.

It was past midnight when Jamsie finished. Mark put down his pipe, reflected a little while in silence, and looked at Jamsie speculatively. The silence was not uncomfortable for Jamsie. Then Mark spent the next hour telling Jamsie what he thought of the whole matter.

Jamsie, according to Mark, was the object of an evil spirit’s attentions. There were hundreds-and, for all Mark knew, perhaps millions and trillions-of different spirits. “You don’t number spirits as you number human beings,” Mark told him. He explained that in his experience, which was considerable, it appeared that each kind of spirit had its own characteristics and techniques of approaching humans. However, a certain kind of spirit-not a very important one-always sought to become a “familiar” of some human being, man, woman, or child. Rarely-but it did happen-did a “familiar” spirit possess an animal.

What was a “familiar”? Jamsie wanted to know. Mark explained that the key to the “familiarity” which such a spirit sought to obtain lay in this: the person in question consented to a total sharing of his or her consciousness and personal life with the spirit.

Mark gave an example. Normally, when you are walking around, eating, working, washing yourself, talking, you are conscious of yourself as distinct from others. Now supposing you were conscious of yourself and of another self all the time, like Siamese twins but inside your own head and in your consciousness. And supposing that the two, so to speak, shared your consciousness. It’s your self-consciousness, your awareness of yourself, and at the same time, it’s the consciousness, the awareness of that other self. Both at the same time. No getting away from one another. “Its” thoughts use your mind, but they are not your thoughts, and you know that. “Its” imagination likewise. And “its” will also. And you are aware of all this constantly, for as long as you are conscious of yourself. That was the familiarity Mark was talking about.
Jamsie was aghast. “My God,” he says now, “I had already gone down that road, at least part of the way. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost!”

Mark answered Jamsie’s panic. He was not lost. He had never consented to full possession by the “familiar.” He had just been invaded. But he was going to be more and more pressured to accept full “familiarity.”

What could happen? Jamsie wanted to know.

“You can be worn down,” Mark said quietly. “You can be taken. Like any of us.

You’re up against a force more powerful than you can ever hope to be yourself.”

Then Mark looked Jamsie straight in the eye and asked him directly if he wanted to undergo Exorcism.

Strangely, Jamsie was speechless. Then slowly he asked in great concern: “Would that mean Ponto would never return?”

Mark told Jamsie that, if the exorcism were successful, Ponto would be gone forever. He concentrated his attention on Jamsie’s every move and reaction. He was only now beginning to be able to measure how far Ponto had extended his hold on Jamsie.

“Well,” he said finally, with a great effort to appear relaxed, “what is it going to be? Do you think we should go as far as that?” He did not want to send Jamsie off half-crazed with fear.

Jamsie was confused. Memories of his loneliness and his having been deserted by his parents crowded his mind. Was this Ponto affair as bad as Mark made it out to be? Couldn’t he keep Ponto at a distance anyway, and still enjoy the exotic character of the whole affair? Besides, wouldn’t he lose some of that verve as a broadcaster that was now his great asset?
Mark chatted with Jamsie for a while about all this. He poured them both another drink. Jamsie was not ready to accept Exorcism. Mark had to wait for Jamsie.

Very earnestly Mark gave Jamsie some practical advice. The whole point, he said, was to resist invasion. Enjoy-if that was the word, Mark said wryly-Ponto’s antics and his stimulation, but resist invasion, Mark insisted. For instance, if Jamsie were to feel a strange grip on his mind, memory, and imagination, and he was not able to resist it, he should adopt a simple trick in order to offset such a “grip”: spell the name of Jesus out letter by letter, over and over. It was this stratagem that was to save Jamsie from suicide at the reservoir later on.

When Jamsie asked if he could use any other name, Mark said with a laugh that he could, but that he would find only that name effective. Mark explained the essence of Exorcism-what it meant, and its effects in the possessed. Finally Mark told Jamsie to call him: “Night or day. Wherever I am, wherever you are, whenever it happens to be, I’ll come immediately to you. But don’t delay, if once you decide I can help with Exorcism.”

When Jamsie got home that night, he could not sleep. But Ponto did not appear.

About a month later, when Jamsie went for his yearly medical checkup, the doctor told him that all was well except for his heart. He should be careful of too much excitement. The doctor prescribed some tablets and regulated Jamsie’s diet. The doctor asked him if he was worried about anything. Was there anything preying on his mind?

Jamsie was surprised at the sharpness of the doctor. Yes, he admitted* he was very preoccupied with personal matters. The doctor recommended that Jamsie think about consulting a psychologist-just to chat over things, relieve the strain a little. He gave Jamsie the name of a man whom he could personally recommend.

Jamsie thought over the matter for about a week. He could not accept Mark’s conclusion that Ponto should be exorcised-not because he did not believe that Ponto was a disembodied spirit, or “anyway partially disembodied,” he thought wryly, but because he could not face up to daily life without Ponto’s disturbances.

But then he began to wonder why he liked such disturbances. Because Ponto’s possession of him had already gone a certain distance? That was what Mark thought. Or because, as he preferred to think, Ponto was the one relief in an otherwise bleak landscape-and, into the bargain, a marvelous stimulus for his work? Or was this precisely the trap Ponto had laid for him? All the lines crisscrossed in confusion. And the confusion only got worse when he began to have all sorts of doubts about Mark’s judgment and intentions. These priests were always looking for converts anyway, he thought. Yet Mark sounded so sincere. Perhaps, after all, a talk with a good psychologist would be helpful.

All that week, Ponto did not appear.

It was when he was driving to his first appointment with the psychologist that Jamsie heard Ponto for the first time in eight or nine days.

“The shrink’s all right, Jamsie. He’s a good man; and you go and do what he says. But if you would only listen to me and do what I want, you would need no shrink.” Jamsie went anyway.

The psychologist recommended by his doctor passed Jamsie on to a psychiatrist colleague. Jamsie spent over 18 months in therapy, but the results were terribly disappointing.

The therapist started off by warning Jamsie that his psychological condition was precarious indeed. He needed extended treatment. But after about six months, the therapist reversed his judgment. He said he could not find any genuine psychological imbalance or abnormalcy in Jamsie. All of Jamsie’s accounts of Ponto, the therapist said, were concocted holus-bolus by Jamsie, were deliberate inventions. The damned thing was a hoax, and he for one didn’t think it was funny. Jamsie finally persuaded the man that this was no hoax, and went on earnestly with therapy for another year.

But finally, when it was clear that there was no appreciable change for the better, Jamsie gave up on psychiatry.

During this period of therapy Ponto appeared regularly and with his usual behaviorisms, but he never really distressed Jamsie. In fact, Jamsie was glad to see Ponto. He seemed more real than the therapist and all his analyses. And, as Ponto remarked to Jamsie one day, “You and I, Jamsie, are one, real flesh and blood; but that shrink lives in his head. Now I ask you: Which is the better off?”

Toward the end of Jamsie’s treatment with the therapist, Ponto seemed to grow impatient, as if he had a deadline to meet in Jamsie’s case. More and more, Jamsie found that Ponto’s thoughts, reactions, feelings, memories, intentions were present to his consciousness, even when Ponto was not visible. He began to experience two sets of thoughts and feelings-his own and Ponto’s. He always knew which were which, but he literally had no privacy of mind.

Amazingly enough, except for an occasional clash with Jay Beedem, who always treated Jamsie with marked coldness, Jamsie’s work continued to be excellent. But by November 1963, internally, inside Jamsie, life was becoming unbearable.

Jamsie remembers clearly that it was from December 1963 that a new desperation began to take hold of him. Ponto did not let up. He kept devising new antics and developed the habit of appearing in Jamsie’s apartment at the end of the day and not disappearing till Jamsie went to bed. He chattered on and on, usually urging Jamsie to do something-quit his job, take a trip, hate this person or that-but’. most often to “let Ponto in.”

Jamsie remembers one incident clearly. He had returned home one evening very late. Ponto appeared on his living-room table and spent about an hour juggling words and phrases and colored lumps of sound-or so it seemed to Jamsie-in the air. Then, as Ponto grew more intense, he developed a chant that grated terribly on Jamsie, a sort of “rhythm and grunt.” He repeated a word over arid over with a little rhythmic grunt after it each time. “Let me in,” he would begin, Then over and over and over: “Let-uh! Let-uh! Let-uh! Me-uh! Me-uh! Me-uh! In-uh! In-uh! In-uh!”. The staccato beat was torture to Jamsie. He finally screamed at Ponto to stop.

In the months following, Jamsie was treated to repeat performances along this line, sometimes once a week. Each time, Jamsie would be to silence Ponto reduced to shouting and screaming in order Neighbors complained regularly about the noise.

Very late one particular evening in December of 1963, after having had his nerves jangled in this way by Ponto for too long, Jamsie could hardly believe it when Ponto was finally quiet for a while. Jamsie soaked up the badly needed tranquillity.

But rather soon he began to hear a new sound. He listened intently. I le could hear Ponto’s voice clearly, but it seemed to be caught up in a babel of other voices similar to Ponto’s.

He could not tell what was being said. There was a lot of laughter and many exclamations. But the whole thing reminded him of how sometimes he used to listen to the radio in his home of the 19305 and get nothing but a rising and falling stream of static together with indistinct and far-off voices.

As Jamsie strained to hear, there was a pause and silence. Then Ponto’s mincing voice from the kitchen: “Jamsie, would you mind if some of my associates and family joined us? After all, we are going to get married, aren’t we? And soon, eh?”
The babel of voices started again and seemed to be approaching the door of his living room.

Jamsie froze for a second; then, seized by a blind, rushing panic, he stood up and dashed out the door, got into his car, and sped as fast as he could to the Golden Gate Bridge. His mind was numb, but his emotions were in turmoil. He felt cold, unwanted, persecuted, desperate. He could not take any more of it. He wanted out. He stopped in the middle of the bridge.

“It’s no use, Jamsie.”

Jamsie knew the voice. God! He could have cried. There he was, balanced on the damned guardrail.

“It’s no use, my friend. You and I have much to do before your life ends. Why do you think I am to be your familiar? So that you die voting? Don’t be a fool!”

Jamsie turned away. For the first time he had the feeling of being beaten by Ponto. He made his way slowly back home. There was no hurry. He did not know what to do anyway. He thought aimlessly of Mark. But what the hell, the shrink hadn’t helped. What could Mark do for him?

Ponto did not appear again that night, but it was a very brief rest for Jamsie. The nighttime had always been a great source of strength and recuperation for Jamsie; and even though Ponto had been encroaching a little more all the time, there had always remained some hours at night when Jamsie was alone, relatively at peace, and could rest. Ponto had never stayed the entire night without asking Jamsie’s consent.

But now Ponto insisted: they had to be intimate. What he meant by that Jamsie was never sure. But it did mean he would spend nights in Jamsie’s apartment. And with a significance that escaped Jamsie, Ponto wanted him to consent. They were going to be married, weren’t they? They were going to make the whole thing legal, weren’t they? Ponto said, grinning in his crooked fashion.

After weeks of badgering, Jamsie was ripe to make a drastic decision. Anything would be better than this torture. Should he finish it all by suicide? Or would it be better to telephone Father Mark? Or should he just give in to Ponto and see how things worked out?

The worst of the badgering sessions with Ponto occurred on February i. Ponto installed himself in Jamsie’s bedroom. Jamsie spent the night stalking up and down his living-room floor, making coffee to stay awake, arguing in a loud voice with Ponto, weeping continuously, smoking and drinking intermittently. He could not get rid of Ponto. And he could not make up his mind. He needed time. It was the pressure on him by Ponto to make a decision that was crushing his spirit.

Finally he decided to make time for thinking and analyzing it all. He would ask for a leave of absence from the station. During the leave he could go over all the events of the last few years, consult with the psychiatrist again, see Father Mark, and get sufficient control of I himself to form some decision about a wise course of action. 1

When he arrived at the station early the following morning and went to see Jay Beedem to request a few days’ leave, his difficulties took a new form.


Beedem spoke without lifting his face from the notes he was reading. Beedem had noticed the increasingly peculiar behavior of 1 Jamsie over the last few weeks, he said. Beedem did not think a leave • of absence was the solution. Of course, Jamsie had some overdue vacation days coming to him. But Beedem felt that, if Jamsie | continued creating a tension among the other station employees, there I could be no other alternative but to fire him. •


** The tone was neither friendly nor unfriendly. Neutral. Very cold. Impersonal.

Jamsie still thought he could get through to Beedem if he could just give him some idea of the dimension of the personal problem that was torturing him. But when he tried, Beedem broke in slowly and emphatically: “If you cannot make right decisions in personal affairs, you cannot be trusted with matters that involve our clients and our listeners.”

Then Beedem lifted his head for the first time since Jamsie had entered his office. Jamsie looked for some spark, any inkling of hope for himself. Beedem’s eyes were blank. Really blank. No metaphor. They could have been made of colored glass, except that, unlike glass, they did not reflect the office or the objects around them or the light from the windows.

Jamsie knew then that there was no use trying to get through to Beedem. He said something about catching up on the vacation days he had missed. Beedem bent once again over his notes.

As Jamsie closed the door on his way out, he threw a quick look back: Beedem was sitting bolt upright in his chair, eyes fixed on Jamsie, glaring steadily. Beedem was looking through him, Jamsie thought. Was that a look of hate and sneering contempt in Beedem’s eyes? Or was it simply the natural reaction of a harried station manager to yet another personal problem of an employee?

Going down the corridor to his office, Jamsie tried to remember some of Mark’s after-dinner conversation with him. He seemed to be the only one Jamsie had met who was sure he had a bead on Jamsie’s problem and what to do about it. But nothing was clear to Jamsie now. He sat down at his desk. He tried to clear his mind. He wanted to go over everything that had happened to him since he had taken up work at the station. His thoughts were in a maelstrom. He could not think logically. Words such as “good,” “evil,” “Satan,” “Jesus,” “Ponto,” “marriage,” “possession,” “free will” twirled and tumbled around inside his head. He could not straighten them out. Then “Beedem” began bobbing up in front of his mind. Beedem? Just like that, with a large question mark. “Jay Beedem? Jay Beedem? Jay Beedem?”

“Jamsie, I’ve got the schedule for next month worked out.” It was his producer, Cloyd.

Jamsie looked up stupidly and muttered: “Jay Beedem?”

“Oh, he’s seen it. It’s okay. We’re all set. Wanna see it?”

Jamsie took the schedule. But he could not concentrate on it now. “I’ll call you, Cloyd,” was all he could manage.

When he was alone, he tried again. It was no use. He could see Mark’s face, Jay Beedem’s face, Ponto’s face, his own face, Ara’s face, Lydia’s face, Cloyd’s face. And Jay Beedem’s again, with that look of contempt and hate. But they were all question marks now.

Slowly Jamsie began to calm down; and he tried to get some questions in order, at least. Was Mark right, and was he being invited to be possessed? Was he possessed already? Was Mark just another priest trying to make a convert out of him? Or maybe somewhere along the line the shrink had been right? Was he paranoid or schizophrenic? Making it all up?

Still restless, his thoughts switched back to Beedem. What was he anyway? Just another stupid, heartless jerk? No, this guy had something else. And he had it in spades. Until today, when Jamsie had happened to glance back, he had never seen Jay Beedem display an emotion. Nothing from inside. He had never even seen him really laugh.

He started to think more about Beedem as a person. What did he know of him? Beedem was a natural salesman. He could speak in 10,000 different tongues and tones, so to say, when he wanted to sell something. He had a vicious wit and could turn without warning on anyone and cut them down mercilessly in public. He often used four-letter words as if they were gilt-edged securities to guarantee the authority and accuracy of what he said. The women at the office shunned him. Some had slept with him once-but no one ever repeated the performance. He was either feared or despised, even when he made people laugh.

Uncle Ponto still never appeared when Beedem was around. Ponto appeared everywhere else, goddammit, Jamsie thought bitterly. Why not whenever he was with Jay Beedem? Why not today, when he could have used a little of that glib coaching?
Some strange edge to Beedem worried Jamsie. He was angry, sure. But that wasn’t it.

He just couldn’t get it together in his head.

Then all of a sudden Jamsie was distracted from his thoughts about Beedem. It had been a long time since he’d worried about it, but now he felt he had to solve the old puzzle of the “look,” the “funny-lookin’ face.” Great! As on that crazy night in Cleveland, he was sure now he was on the verge of discovering what he had “been told about it.” For the first time in years he tried desperately to get all his memories together, in order to piece the fragments into a composite robot sketch. Time and time again, as he sat at his desk, he thought he had it. His knuckles were white as he gripped the arms of his chair in the effort. But each time, the bits fell away from his bidding. He sat hunched up in his chair, laboring at this mental sketch; and slowly, bit by bit, the fragments started finally to fall into place and stay put.

After some time, Cloyd stopped by Jamsie’s office again. He found Jamsie in extraordinary efforts of concentration, groaning and muttering to himself. When he could not get Jamsie’s attention, he became frightened and ran for help. He found two station engineers, and together all three of them watched Jamsie, wondering what they should do.

Jamsie, meanwhile, was totally absorbed in his effort. He Vas on the very verge, he felt. But, at once, all the fragments fell apart into a long, jagged line at the end of which were Jay Beedem’s unsmiling eyes. Then, again in a lightning flash, the line of fragments seemed to pour out his right ear, make for the window, and disappear up into the blue midday sky. The last trace he saw of it was Jay Beedem’s face, for once broken by an ear-to-ear grin, trailing off at the tail end of the retreating line.

Jamsie clapped his hands to his ears. He was shouting, a tangled, throaty gust of protest and rage.

Finally he heard Cloyd’s voice coming from a great distance: “Jamsie! Jamsie! Are you okay? Jamsie! Wake up!” He felt three pairs of hands on him, and he looked into the frightened faces of Cloyd and the two engineers.

“What’s going on here?” It was Jay Beedem, calm, dispassionate, annoyed, and bored all at once. He stood in the door and motioned with his hand to the others to leave. He told Jamsie almost paternally that he should take the rest of the day off.
Jamsie felt completely beaten. He had not solved anything. He had not understood anything. It was idiotic for things to start flying out of his head again. He had not even gotten a leave of absence. The rest of the day off! Thanks a lot, he thought.

He stood up drooping and bowed, almost in tears. Jay Beedem stood aside. Jamsie stumbled out of the office, down the corridor, and out it into the parking lot to his car. It was Jamsie’s last day at the station. He would not see Jay Beedem again. But at that moment Jamsie could not think ahead for five minutes.

The moment he entered his apartment, he knew Ponto was there somewhere. There was that smell . . .

“Now, don’t be angry, Jamsie,” the voice came from the hall closet.

“I’m going to remain away from you until you call me. Don’t be angry. Just give the matter some cool thought.” Jamsie brightened slightly. But fatigue took over. He fell on the bed, and in a few minutes was fast asleep.

It was about seven o’clock on Saturday morning when he awoke quietly. He was sure that some sound had awakened him. He listened for a few moments. Then he heard a rustling and scraping sound from the closet where Ponto had been the previous night.

Jamsie grew tense and suspicious. What was Ponto up to now? He tiptoed over, stood listening a moment, then jerked the sliding door of the closet aside. What he saw galvanized him with a disgust and outrage he had never felt before, even in his worst times with Ponto. Ponto was sitting on top of the old icon, picking away at the bits of mosaic that composed the face of the Virgin. Already the eyes were two sightless black holes, and Ponto was working on the mouth.

When Jamsie looked in at him, he stopped in a leisurely fashion, one fingernail curled around a mosaic fragment.

“We won’t be needing this garbage, Jamsie, will we, you and I?” He smiled self-assuredly. The smell wafted around Jamsie’s nostrils. “After all, I can’t spend the night with this thing beside me, now, can I?”

Ponto smirked.

Jamsie saw red. All the resentment that had piled up inside him since his early teens-his anger at being frightened, his frustration about that “funny-lookin’ face,” his disappointment with his father and mother, his final desire to be rid of Ponto and his importunings, his perpetual loneliness-all burst out from his inner self, flooding his mind with a nausea against knowing anything more about life. In that moment his will went rigid with a firm decision that pointed him to dying and death as his only release and hope of rest.

For some seconds he stood swaying from side to side, his head aching. Then he broke into the desperate rage that propelled him like a wild man, swearing and cursing out loud, as he bolted down the front steps to his car.

There was nothing very unusual about Father Mark A.’s childhood or about his family. Mark is a native New Yorker. His father, still alive, is a Yankee from Maine who settled in New York after World War I. His mother, now dead, was a Kelly from
Tennessee. Her family had come over from Ireland to America in the late eighteenth century. She had been educated in Kansas City. When she came to New York to stay a while with relatives, she met her husband. He worked in a large accounting firm.

Mark was the third of five children. His two brothers still live in New York. One of his sisters married a Swiss manufacturer and lives in Zurich. The other sister, a missionary nun, was in the Philippines when World War II broke out. She survived in a Japanese concentration camp, but she was badly weakened and died in Manila after the war was over.

All in all, no one could have guessed that a man of Mark’s normal and uneventful background would be the one person who could not only believe, but understand Jamsie’s predicament, or that Mark’s father’s rather prosaic profession as an accountant would be the chance link to complete the chain of circumstances.

As a young man, after a year and a half of college, Mark entered the diocesan seminary. Seven years later, in 1928, along with eight other men, he became a priest. He spent ten years as an assistant in four parishes of the New York diocese. He became known as a hard worker and a very effective priest. He was practical rather than mystical, an activist decades before that was fashionable, and very hard to discourage. Those who knew him then recall him as bouncy, almost jaunty, with clear blue eyes, quick gestures, ready words, sudden flare-ups of temper and equally quick returns of good humor.

Mark himself tells how in those early years life always seemed to him to be made up of “scenarios.” Each situation was composed of people and objects. You assessed the people, got to know the objects, and plotted your course of action, your “scenario,” for that situation. Mark shunned any wishy-washy ideas about “motivations” or any “mystical realities.” To many of his contemporaries he seemed to have a shallow and brittle approach. And, indeed, Mark now admits that in those early years it was as though his inner self was covered with a hard, protective rind that nothing pierced. He was impervious to any emotional appeal; and he was not held up or influenced by the intangibles of a situation.

When Mark was about to be moved to his fourth parish, his ecclesiastical superiors offered him a choice: a parish in the suburbs, or one in the center of midtown Manhattan. Mark chose without hesitation to work in the heart of the city. And for the next two years he experienced a new set of problems, totally different from those he had been confronting in the outlying parishes where he had already served.

At that moment in its history, just prior to World War II, New York was a mecca of sorts, and not merely for those with financial and economic interests. Serviced by 21 tunnels, 20 bridges, 16 ferries, 6 major airlines, New York received 115,000 visitors on an average day and an additional 270,000 out-of-town delegates who came to 500 annual conventions. Through trunkline railways, buslines, airlines, highways, they poured into the city and, as one statistician of that time calculated, on any one given night the hotel bedsheets in use would have covered 840 acres of Central Park.

The visitors could stay in any one of 460 hotels with a total of over 112,000 rooms costing anything from 254: in the Bronx to $50 per day at the Ritz. And, with or without the courteous and patient help of the eight young ladies in Macy’s City Information Bureau, they found their way to one or another of New York’s 9,000 restaurants, where they ordered their heart’s desire from Irish stew, Japanese sukiyaki, and Creole gumbo, to Swedish smorgasbord, Budapest salami, and Cephalonian afgalimono.

“Hard-boiled New York is just a three-minute egg” rhapsodized the Convention and Visitors Bureau in one of its blurbs. Visitors rapidly discovered the soft center of that marvelous city. But Mark discovered that there was also a smell of human suffering and degradation.

Mark’s parish was in the center of the tourist and hotel area. Between chambermaids, bellhops, desk clerks, cashiers, stewards, chefs, waiters and waitresses, and kitchen help, Mark calculated that there were 50,000 to 75,000 men and women whose hours were irregular and long. They went to bed when most church services were starting. Many were holding down two jobs at the same time. There was no way for these men and women to keep religion as part of hotel-life schedules. But it was such a hidden problem-or at least one nobody would normally think of-that it was practically neglected by every church.

What heightened both the plight and the peril of those neglected people in Mark’s eyes was the web of organized crime-mainly in drug traffic, prostitution, and the numbers game-into which many were willy-nilly drawn. From simple steering of individual visitors to pimping for one or another of the several madams and their parlor houses; from simple bet collecting to bet agenting; from drug running to drug peddling and distributing; the road in every case was easy to find and too attractive not to try. Even with the Seabury investigation in 1930 and the breakup of the Luciano syndicate by Thomas Dewey some time later, there was no real cessation of this traffic in crime and vice.

Mark’s father, as a certified accountant, handled the affairs of some major hotels in New York City. When-Mark took up his new post, his father provided him with introductions to some of his friends and clients in the area. It was exactly the opening Mark needed in order to get to know the conditions in the hotels and restaurants, and to talk often and easily with the personnel. His factual mind seized on the salient elements, and his priestly experience and instincts indicated to him what could be done to meet the religious needs of the hotel and restaurant workers.

By the time his next tour of duty came up for consideration two years later, he had his mind more or less made up as to what he wished to do.

In August 1938 he got his chance. He had a long discussion with his superiors. He had a simple proposal to make: to undertake a special mission as chaplain extraordinary to the hotel and restaurant personnel in New York City. As Mark presented the case, it must have sounded like asking to go as missionary to savage lands. The superiors were impressed with his analysis of the situation. They were not difficult to persuade. The decision was made, and Mark went to live in a midtown parish rectory. He was relieved of all duties in that parish. It was to be merely his home base.

His new parish actually lay in every hotel in Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. He divided this parish into six areas based on a rough grouping of hotels. The Grand Central area was centered on the Commodore and the Biltmore. The Penn Station area had the New Yorker as its center point. Times Square was relatively self-contained. The East Side was dominated by the Waldorf-Astoria. The Central Park group centered around the Plaza and the Sherry Netherlands. Brooklyn Heights centered mainly on the 2,641-room St. George.

But Mark’s beat was not exclusively hotels, and it definitely was not all first class. He knew restaurants, nightclubs, swing joints, dives, second-, third-, and no-class hotels. He was as familiar as the “regulars” in the Paradise Cabaret on Broadway and in the Cotton Club on 48th Street (where, as he recalls, “50 Tall Tan Girls” danced to Cab Galloway’s music). He knew Billy Rose’s Casino de Paree, and was well known at swing joints such as the Onyx, the Famous Door, the Hickory House.

It was not surprising that Mark got to know some of New York’s best chefs (and some of the worst!). Partly as a means to help him reach the hearts and minds of some of his “parish,” Mark began to take an interest in cooking. One fine day he even found he had a genuine talent for cooking and that he had a real interest in it.

It would not be long before he found that this was not the only part of his new life that would reach inside and become part of him always.

Mark was on a late-night call-ordinary for his new beat-when he had his first close brush with a force that would later become the focus of all his efforts. It was at the bedside of a young prostitute who had been found bleeding and unconscious in a vacant lot near Ninth Avenue and 43rd Street. This and Sugar Hill in Harlem, where the mulattoes plied their trade, were the cheapest and the most dangerous areas in prostitution. Mark never went there except on urgent call.

When he entered the ill-lit room where the girl lay, her mother was there. She indicated the little cot in the semidarkness of one corner. The girl was moaning in pain. In the shadows at the foot of the cot Mark could see the figure of a man wearing a hat and overcoat, hands thrust in his pockets. As Mark approached the cot, the man took out one hand and held it up in an arresting motion. Mark stopped.

“Who is this?” Mark asked the girl’s mother in a whisper.

She shook her head. “I don’t know, Father. He used to be with her now and then. He came in a few moments ago. I thought he . . .” She trailed off helplessly.

Mark was now close enough to see the girl’s eyes in the semidarkness. They were open and fixed on the man at the foot of the cot. The little light thrown by the single bulb in the room picked up the oddest expression in her eyes. Mark’s mind flashed in a split-second memory to a pet rabbit he had had as a boy. One day he found the rabbit huddled and shivering staring at the cat that hovered by its cage. The ugly glitter in the cat’s eyes-its superiority, its mysterious pull on him, its cruelty and disdain-was hypnotic. The fear that paralyzed the rabbit was dreadful and pathetic.

“She doesn’t need you.”

The words came from the man standing at the foot of the cot. The accent was normal.

The tone was authoritative. There was no hint of hostility, just utter finality.

Mark fumbled for his crucifix and the little bottle of holy water he always carried. He had decided in that instant to give the girl a blessing and to leave it at that. He was not begging for trouble. Perhaps she was not even Catholic.

“That is enough.”

The same voice again, but this time the tone held a definite menace. There was an implicit “or else” in those three words.
Mark was puzzled. Perhaps the man did not understand. He turned and faced the dark figure. It seemed to withdraw deeper into the shadows.

“But I’m . . .” Mark began by way of explanation.

But he never finished the sentence. The entire “scenario” as he had seen it up to that moment disappeared. It all became clear to him. The hard rind seemed to have been peeled off of his inner self; and he became wholly sensitive to what lay behind the “scenario” facing him-the girl, the man, the old woman, the dingy room, and the peculiar atmosphere enveloping all three of them. He was instantly aware of multiple relationships stretching taut like invisible cords among all present.
He drew back almost in shock at what he now understood. He knew that somehow the girl was in thrall to that man. And he knew it was far beyond the thralldom of a prostitute to her pimp. Somehow the man could assert his claim with a brutal authority.

The girl’s mother touched Mark on the arm. They left the room. Outside, their conversation was brief.

“No, Father,” she answered his question. “He’s not her pimp.” She looked at him with eyes full of despair. “I thought you’d get to her before they arrived.”

“They?” echoed Mark with a new sense of shock. The mother nodded her head and stared steadily at him. He made a move to go back in.

“No.” She laid a hand gently but firmly on his arm. “No. You’re still young. You don’t know what you’re up against. You can’t deal with anything like this. Yet.” And then, already moving away from Mark to the door of the apartment, “Save yourself, Father. She’s already in their grip.”

She opened the door, and then closed it between them before he could ask any more questions.

“You can’t deal with it.”

He never forgot the woman’s words. But it took him some months and many experiences before he began to understand that he was more than once up against cases of possession. Sometimes the situations resembled that of the dying girl, but not always.

At the end of the year Mark went to his superiors again and asked to speak to the official exorcist of the diocese. There was none, he was told, at that particular moment. But, said the official with whom Mark talked, if any cases of possession came up, they would call Mark in. He said this with the jocularity that is so often the sign of total ignorance. After all, the official added, with what Mark had been through, and if Mark’s suspicions were true, he already had more experience than anyone else they knew.

The official’s tone may have been light, but the result of the conversation was serious.

Mark was now official exorcist of his diocese.

With intermittent breaks in his routine and some trips to other parts of the country and to Canada, Mark’s ministry in New York lasted for 24 years. During that time he developed his knowledge and skill in dealing with cases of possession (real and counterfeit-he always said that out of every hundred claimants there might be one genuine case). But, more importantly, he became aware of an entire world of the spirit about which he had been taught nothing in the seminary and which seemed to flourish as the dark underside of life in his beloved New York.

Mark still gave the impression of jaunty objectivity. But now there was a deep underlay of awareness and shrewdness. And he was open and sensitive to the slightest trace of diabolism, while highly skeptical of all claims of diabolical “attention.”

It was a source of some amazement to his close associates and superiors that he did not go the way of most exorcists. A few years’ active ministry in Exorcism, and the majority paled, as it were: they seemed to wither in a variety of ways; some by illness, others by premature aging; others still because they seemed to have lost the will to live.

“Most of us crawl away and die somewhere quietly,” Mark said as we talked one evening. I knew he was right.

“Why not you, Mark?”

“Well, you see,” Mark began jokingly, “I have this great pal upstairs, and when I start into one of those exorcism businesses, he comes along and holds my hand.” But at the end of the sentence Mark’s eyes were away over my head and his expression was not in the least jocular. It was luminous and fixed on some object or person I could not identify.

One colleague of Mark’s with whom I talked had been a close friend since their seminary days. They had always exchanged confidences. But all that had changed. He told me he had long since realized that Mark’s inner life had been invaded by a dimension of which he knew very little and at which he could only guess.

Mark seemed all of a sudden very old and deeply weary to his friend. For most priests, as for most lay people, the world of the exorcist is totally unknown. The toll it takes is incommunicable and can pass unnoticed for years, even by those nearest to the exorcist.

But in those days Mark was still a young man. He lost most of his hair before he was thirty-five, but so did his two brothers. His health remained excellent. He exercised frequently, and rarely seemed to be affected adversely by his job. For two or three weeks after his first brush with an evil spirit, he seemed retired into himself and to be in deep thought. Then he snapped out of it. When he came across his first case of a “familiar” spirit (the subject was a pimp arrested for a multiple murder), he was completely befuddled, as he now admits. “Evil was very hard to trace,” he recalls. “


And I had two psychiatrists telling me that this was a classical case of multiple personality.” In spite of the psychiatrists’ opinions (which seemed to be somewhat confused, anyway, Mark recalls) and his own puzzlement about the ease, Mark decided to try Exorcism because of four cardinal “symptoms”: the physical disturbances accompanying the presence of the pimp, the pimp’s physically uncontrollable and violent reaction to the crucifix, to the name of Jesus, and to holy water.

The only type of possession that produced a strange and unwonted tension in Mark was what he came to discern as “the perfectly possessed.” His colleagues learned of such cases from Mark only because from time to time they sensed a peculiar tension very unusual in Mark. And occasionally they questioned him, thinking that he had had some accident, or that he was in some danger, or that they might help solve some problem. What they saw in Mark at such times, as they or some of them came to learn, was not a nervous tension, but lather an intense watchfulness and wariness which, his friends felt, was directed even at them. At those times he gave the impression of extreme guardedness. He was tight-lipped, gimlet-eyed, and curt in his (Malversation. When they finally were able to draw him out, and he them some idea of the condition of those who, he found, were perfectly possessed, they were taken aback by his totally negative attitude. This, too, was very unusual in Mark.

To all questions as to why there was no room for mercy or hope in such cases, Mark would try to recount some of his experiences with the perfectly possessed. But most of all he reflected the reality of the experience in a stare of such stark and concentrated realization that no one could pursue the subject further with him.

At the age of sixty Mark asked for a sabbatical. His health was still good, but something was changing in him. The years had piled up inside him an accumulation of disgusts and reticences that finally even he could not ignore.

His preference for a temporary location fell on San Francisco, where he had many friends and acquaintances. By April 1963, he was in residence there. He was given little by way of duties in the parish where he was staying, and spent most of his time in the open air.

But his compassion and his professional interests were aroused when Lila Wood, one of his acquaintances, talked to him at length one day about Jamsie Z., whom she had recently met at the broadcasting studio where she worked, and who not only seemed deeply troubled, but was more or less politely shunned by everybody.

Mark asked Lila many questions, until she had given him a fairly detailed picture of Jamsie’s odd behavior. Even from this secondhand description, Mark was pretty certain that in Jamsie he was probably up against a case of a “familiar.”

What distressed Mark most in his own first long discussion with Jamsie was his strong impression that, short either of a miracle or of Exorcism, Jamsie Z. was on the high road either to complete possession by his insistent “familiar” or to suicide as the easiest way of ridding himself once and for all of his misery. Mark knew the symptoms. And, more importantly, he had acquired over the years an instinct for the crisis point of “familiar” possession. The instinct was like that developed by painters for color and hue and chromatic intensity. That instinct could not be taught, but could only be learned by experience.

The person harassed by the “familiar’s” advances, in the extreme stages of that harassment and just before the final outcome, generally begins to have dim perceptions of some more potent figure or force, as a greater shadow thrown by the lesser “familiar” or that which follows on the “familiar.”

After Jamsie Z.’s unmistakable experience at the reservoir, Mark knew several things: there was no doubt in his mind that Ponto was totally real; there was no doubt that he, Mark, would be making a fatal mistake to be put off by the bizarre and often unbelievable predicament of Jamsie, or to dismiss his rages and antics as “psycho” behavior; and there was no doubt that Jamsie had reached the critical point.

The exorcism involving Jamsie Z. and Uncle Ponto lacked much of the violent, scatological, and pornographic elements that accompany other types and cases of possession. The struggle was at a different level, involved a different genre of spirit, and concerned a possession whose intensity was achieved over most of a lifetime.

Mark had come to know by experience that the degree of intelligence and knowledge that generally seems to characterize “familiars” is very low, sometimes approaching the level of half-witted children. “Familiars” seem to have only a small quantum of factual knowledge and very little power of foresight or anticipation. They appear to be bound by cast-iron rules and to be in strict dependence on a “higher” intelligence about which they talk frequently and to which Ponto, for example, had to have recourse at every crisis.

The “familiar” gives the impression of a weak mirror reflection, so to speak, of a greater one. So great seems this dependence of the “familiar” that it never directly engages the exorcist.

This attribute of the “familiar” spirit in particular complicated Mark’s efforts. It meant he was working by proxy, or on a secondhand basis. Jamsie was the only one able to hear and see Uncle Ponto, and Jamsie had to verbalize it all for Mark. Ponto could hear and see Mark, but it was only when Ponto’s “superior” took over that Mark was dealing directly with the evil spirit.

In excerpting Jamsie Z.’s exorcism, the choice fell primarily on those exchanges that bring out two points: first, the process of Jamsie’s possession, and second, the extremely complex relationships implied by this kind of possession-Ponto’s relationship as the “familiar” to Jamsie as the possessed, on the one hand, and the relationship of both Jamsie and Ponto to the “superior” spirit, on the other hand.

Mark’s past experience of possession by “familiar” spirits had taught him one principal difference between the exorcism of a “familiar” and that of the other kinds of evil spirit. Other types of possessed find themselves almost completely bereft of their freedom. They are saved solely by an influx of grace, channeled through the ministrations of the exorcist. But the victim of the “familiar” spirit is quasi-possessed by the “familiar,” until he gives final consent to the “familiar” and to a “sharing” of himself.


Even then, the loss of control over one’s inner self does not appear so deep that contact with the exorcist is to all intents and purposes impossible for him, as it often is in other types of possession where the evil spirit “hides” behind the identity of the victim and responds instead of the victim. In this type of possession, it is almost as though the “superior” spirit “hides” behind the “familiar” instead.