My name is Jessamine, and when I was fifteen years old my sister, Lorraine, had an exorcism. It isn’t something I talk about often, especially not in mixed company, but it is an undeniable part of my past. It happened, I was there, and it has been haunting me ever since. I don’t think about it every waking moment of my life, but I do think about it a lot. Usually when I’m alone, or in those quiet times like when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.
When you see something like that, you just can’t shake it. It just keeps showing up in your mind, like a bad penny that turns up face down every time you’re looking for some good luck. Lorraine seems to have moved past it better than I have, or if she hasn’t, she’s putting up an excellent front. We used to discuss it now and then, she’d tell me about the parts she could remember, but as time has gone on, she’s taken the topic off the table. That’s her way of healing, I suppose. We all have our things.
It started, really, about a year or so before the exorcism itself. That was when we all began to notice the changes in my sister. They weren’t subtle changes either, and they seemed to get worse over time. Thinking back on it, I don’t know how we ever came to any other conclusions about what was going on with her, but possession is generally the last thing you imagine when a person in your life begins to fall apart the seams. Probably because it sounds absolutely insane to the average person, especially if that person is also a nonbeliever.
If you don’t believe already? Well, you should. I was a skeptic too, until I saw what happened to Lorraine. No pressure, of course, everyone is free to accept or deny whatever they choose, but I’m telling you right now that this was real. All of it, every word of it, is nothing but the truth told from my perspective.
My memories of this time in my life have never faded or waned. The details never change, warped over time by my need to embellish or change the little things. Everything I remember now is exactly as it happened, and if I feel like I can’t trust myself then I turn to my old journals. I wrote down the events in real time; something to fall back on if I ever feel myself starting to slip a little. Even at fifteen years old I understood the magnitude of what was happening to my big sister, and I knew that if something went wrong, we’d need something to fall back on.
Because, well, exorcisms do go wrong sometimes. Have you ever heard of Anneliese Michel? If the answer is no, then I suggest you read about her after I’ve said my piece. She’s a prime example, perhaps the best one, of what happens when it all goes awry. Not everyone gets to walk away once the demon is banished out, and sometimes the demon just…doesn’t leave at all. Anyway, I digress. We’re here to talk about Lorraine, and about what happened to my family.
So, all happened in the winter of 1993, and this is my eyewitness account. First, though, let’s go back to the beginning. Back to the previous summer when it all went off the rails….
It was so hot that summer that I thought I might melt and become one with the floor, an unidentifiable puddle of goo where a teenage girl once stood. Our house lacked air conditioning, the ancient wiring in the old farmhouse unable to support anything beyond our humming refrigerator and a few lamps in each room. The house had belonged to my grandparents, gifted to my mother when she married my father. They had skipped out of Kansas and moved to Florida, where they could suffer in the heat all year round instead of just June through September, leaving us behind with acres of corn crop and not much else.
People love to romanticize small town life, but I can assure you it’s not nearly as interesting or fun as movies and television make it out to be. It’s mostly just boring, and you’re always on a quest to find something to do. Or, at least, that was how it was for me and Lorraine. She had gotten her license that spring, and after we helped out around the house dad allowed us to take his old beater of a truck into town to meet up with our friends. It was there that we would then, as a group, lament about nothing to do.
See what I’m getting at? We were bored, and that was what opened up the doors for what came later. Just simple teenage boredom mingled with stupidity. It didn’t feel stupid at the time but, looking back, it absolutely was. We were messing with things we had no business messing with.
I wasn’t there the night that Lorraine and her friends first played with the Ouija board, and if I had been I’m sure I would have joined in. It was just a stupid board game, nothing more and nothing less. People loved to pass around old wives’ tales about it, but it wasn’t something I ever would have been wary of. Who would have believed all those old stories anyway? Every old folk in town had one, and they were all more or less the same. So-and-so knew such-and-such who’d had a Ouija board when they were younger. They tried to get rid of it by burning/throwing it out/burying it, but it always came back somehow. When they’d go to the games shelf to get some cards or Monopoly, there the board would be, right back in the stack as though it had always been there.
To this day, I’m still not sure that the board is entirely to blame for what happened. Could it have been a conduit for the evil thing that took over my sister’s mind and body? Absolutely, and I’m not disputing that, but I do think there was more to it. It never would have worked at all if Lorraine hadn’t been willing, hadn’t been open to the idea of letting something come through and be present in her world. She had presented the thing with an invitation to the party, and it had shown up in a big way.
I’ve done a lot of research over the years, and the conduit thing holds water. Spirits, demons, whatever you want to call them, they can’t inhabit inanimate objects just because they feel like it. They have to be tied to the thing somehow, or, as with Lorraine’s case, they have to be invited in. It happens all the time, and that’s how we end up with shit like haunted dolls that move on their own, and rocking chairs that rock without a person sitting in them. That kind of stuff, you know? It’s all because someone was stupid enough to say, hey, ya wanna come live with me? Cool, hop into this teddy bear it’ll be great.
Lorraine was looking for something exciting to happen that night, and her friends were willing and eager too. They were tired of small town life, of nothing ever happening, and they opened up a door they couldn’t close behind them. Later on my sister would tell me that nothing super scary or unusual happened that night. They made contact with a spirit through the board, and it gave them the name Thomas. It had answered some of their questions, which left them giggling nervously but eager for more, though eventually the answers had puttered out. They’d tried for a few more minutes, gave up, and abandoned the game to go get pizza instead and hang out at the gas station on the edge of town.
They didn’t close the channel when they left. They didn’t even put the board away, just walked away from it where it sat on the dining room table, planchette tossed aside. She told the priest later on that she had no idea you were supposed to close anything, that there was any sort of ritual to tidy up at the end of the game.
This is why you can’t trust kids and teenagers to play with the devil and then put him back in his cage all nice like. How were they supposed to know?
It was a few weeks after that though when things began to get strange at home. I’m not entirely sure if anything was going on before, because Lorraine never told me. I remember her being tired all the time though, coming home from her part time job at the grocery store and crawling into bed for a nap before dinner, and going back to sleep not long after the dishes were cleared. She didn’t spend as much time with her friends because of that, and mom thought she was just coming down with a summer cold.
The first real sign of something more, however, happened on a Saturday evening. I’d been at the baseball diamond for a little league practice, and I shuffled into the house covered in dirt and sweat. Mom and dad were visiting my grandparents, and had left money for us to go into town to get something for dinner. I was heading for my room with the intent to shower and change before we left, when I saw my sister in her bedroom. Her door being open wasn’t unusual, it helped the airflow on those hot days, but what I caught her doing was.
She was standing with her back to me, facing the opposite wall. She wasn’t doing anything though, just…standing and staring. Her head was cocked to one side, her blond hair spilling down over her shoulder. Every now and then she’d tap her fingers against her thighs, but otherwise was motionless. I stood there too for what felt like a small eternity, just watching her and waiting for something to happen. When it didn’t I called out, concerned that maybe she wasn’t feeling well again, or worse was doing something bizarre like mid-day sleep walking.
“Lorraine?” I called out, mouth set in a thin line of concern. “Lorraine! Are you okay?”
My sister, my beautiful, wonderful, always smiling big sister turned towards me then. She moved so fast it startled me, and the look on her face compounded that brief moment of fear. Her eyes were wild, her mouth contorted into what I can only describe as a snarl. Then she parted her lips and let out the most terrifyingly inhuman shriek I’d ever heard. It was so loud I clapped my hands over my ears to shut out the sound, Lorraine still screaming as she rushed forward and slammed the door in my face.
Abandoning my plans to shower, I ran back downstairs and into the kitchen, which somehow seemed to be the safest place to hide in my mind. I was still there twenty minutes later when Lorraine emerged, looking chipper and bright as she always did. She didn’t mention the episode and neither did I, chalking it up to having spooked her when I spoke up from behind her like that.
If only it had been that simple. If only it had been limited to that one strange experience, then life would have been good. Instead, those moments began to happen more and more frequently. Sometimes we’d find her doing what she had been doing on that day, which was staring blankly at nothing. Other times she’d go into violent outbursts out of nowhere, and over seemingly nothing. She even swung on our father one day, while lashing out when he told her asked her if she’d done her chores around the house that evening. Truth was, I’d been doing all the work for the both of us, because she had taken to sleeping more and more. It wasn’t just light naps either, it was real, deep sleep that was hard to wake her from.
Things escalated until the day that my parents had enough and took her to see her doctor in town. Mom, dad, and I had gone to the grocery store, and when we got back we found the house in shambles. Lorraine had gone from room to room, destroying things as she went. She ripped family pictures off the walls, and had snapped grandma Marie’s confirmation crucifix, which had hung above our fireplace for years, clean in half. Feathers were torn from pillows, and papers and books strewn all over the place. When my parents finally found her she was crouched in the hall closet, methodically tearing the pages out of the large Bible that had been in my mom’s family for generations. She would rip out a page, crinkle it up in her fingers, and then stuff it into her mouth. She had eaten probably twenty pages or so before being discovered.
When confronted about it, Lorraine had remained crouched there on the floor, and had promptly peed her pants. We’re not talking a little piddle either, we’re talking soaked clothing and a small puddle at her feet. That was when she started to cry, and my father had gathered her up in his arms and lifted her out of the closet, taking her upstairs to her bed. While she slept my parents talked behind closed doors, and while I strained to listen I couldn’t make out much. Not that it mattered, because I found out soon enough. Something was very much wrong with my sister, and it could no longer be ignored.
The next morning my mom called Doctor Gallagher, who agreed to get Lorraine in right away. They left me home to finish cleaning up the mess while they took her to see him, and they were gone for a couple of hours. Upon their return home they had referrals to a couple of other doctors, including a psychiatrist and an endocrinologist. Her tests were all normal, but the doctor had wanted to cover all the bases, and my parents were more than willing to agree. Whatever was wrong with Lorraine, they would do whatever was necessary to make right and get her better.
As weeks dragged on my mom took Lorraine to her appointments, since dad had to work and couldn’t always go along with them. Sometimes I went, but other times I stayed home and tried to pretend that things were normal, when in reality they were anything but. The time between appointments felt endless, and Lorraine was on a constant downward slide. She refused to shower, her hair growing greasy and limp while her face, once enviably beautiful, broke out all over. She had to be more or less coerced into eating, though there were days when the battle was too exhausting and mom let her just stay in her room. She lost weight fast, and her clothes hung off her frame.
There were blood tests and MRI’s, scan after scan done of her brain to check for tumors or other maladies. They tried different combinations of medications, heavily sedated a lot of the time on a cocktail of anti-psychotics that didn’t seem to do much good when she was awake. One minute she would be impossibly lethargic, barely able to lift her own head, and then she’d suddenly scream in this horrible, guttural voice. Sometimes it was just shrieking, sometimes nonsense words, but other times she would declare that shew as going to hell where the flesh would rot from her bones and she would live an eternity of torment.
You can not imagine how happy I was to go back to school. Facing a barrage of questions from our friends and from the faculty was a cake-walk compared to being home. I just told them that Lorraine was sick, that the doctors were trying to figure it out, and most people accepted that answer. They knew that she had been withdrawn from classes and being taught at home by our mother, so I didn’t have to explain much beyond that.
Who knows how long things might have continued like that, the drugs and the tests and the trial and error, if my mother hadn’t cleaned Lorraine’s room one day late in the fall while my father ran her to the doctor for yet more blood draws. The place hadn’t been deep cleaned in months, and she wanted to take the opportunity while my sister was out of the house and not there to flip out at her or be a lump in the bed so she couldn’t even change the sheets.
Beneath the bed she unearthed the Ouija board, which none of us had even been aware of, the box missing but the board and planchette there. More digging produced pages and pages of paper, scribbled on front and back in everything from pen to crayon. Most of it was unintelligible, mostly scribbles, but we could make out some of it. It was mostly an account of Lorraine’s suffering in her own hand, about being a prisoner inside of her body and not sure how to escape. About the nightmares, the visions, the horrible things plaguing her that only she could see.
It was then that it all snapped into place for my parents, and they sat me down to ask me questions. I knew about the board, Lorraine had mentioned it to me before, but I didn’t know much beyond that. Not who had owned it, where they had played it, or any of that stuff. I couldn’t tell them what I didn’t know, but what I did know had been enough.
My parents put in a call to the church that weekend, and were asked to meet in person. They spoke to Father Parrish, who promised to come by and interview my sister. From there, he said, if she met the requirements, he could speak to the Bishops about moving forward.
My mom and dad, my previously sane parents, were talking about an exorcism on Lorraine. Despite my reservations about that sort of thing, and not having grown into the most staunchly religious person in the world, I knew they were doing the right thing. Did that make me insane too? Possibly, but I knew what I’d been seeing, and I knew she needed help. My sister was going to die if someone didn’t intervene, and medicine wasn’t working. Something had to give, and if that involved a priest and some weird ritual? Well, then so be it.
I couldn’t stand to just sit by and watch my sister starve to death, spending most of her hours in a practically catatonic sleep or screaming vulgarities and insults at us in a voice we didn’t recognize. I wanted her back, by any means necessary, same as my mom and dad. I was onboard, one-hundred and ten percent.