The occult dangers are very real and Sarchie cites many different occult elements that were used by the demonic to entice people and lead them to a life of terror including: ouija board, tarot cards, seances, witchcraft rituals, Palo Mayombe "religion" (black magic), crystalmancy (divination), curses, enneagram and Santeria. As Sarchie notes, the ultimate goal of demonic harassment is always demonic possession, but in some of the cases Sarchie and his team arrived on the scene before the worst case scenario occurred. If during his investigations he discovered that a person was possessed, Sarchie would submit the case to a member of the Catholic clergy to perform an exorcism, in which he would assist.
With the cases of demonic possession, Sarchie enlisted the help of two individuals in particular, Bishop Robert F. McKenna, O.P. who wrote the Foreward to Beware The Night and Jesuit and Exorcist, Father Malachi Martin, whose book on demonic possession, Hostage To The Devil - The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans, was read by Sarchie and helped him to better understand the "the work." Many of the cases in Sarchie's book were harassments of a lesser degree in the form of demonic infestation and/or oppression. Rooted in prayer and fasting, armed with St. Benedict Medals, exorcised or blessed salt, incense and holy water, relics including a splinter of the True Cross, Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer and crucifixes, Sarchie, his partner on the police force Joe Forrester and their team of investigative assistants would go off into the spiritual battle zone and engage in combat with the demonic.
Sarchie's involvement in "the work" also reveals to the reader something about the man himself, a person who sincerely wanted to help deliver people from the clutches of the demonic. As a Roman Catholic whose devotion to Our Blessed Mother was expressed in part with his daily recitation of the Rosary, Sarchie prayed for each case. Sarchie never charged anyone for his services and he would make every effort to avail himself to those who called him to investigate, helping as many people as he possibly could. Sarchie was also prudent as he never went on a case without getting all the facts first and then praying on the matter. Sarchie's investigative work during his own personal time is a great example of faith put into action. To quote scripture, "What good is a faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless." (James 2:17)
Sarchie's life example is something we all can learn from, not only with respect to the dangers of the occult, but how we too can put faith into action. Clearly not everyone is called to investigate demonic influences, but we can ask ourselves, what are we doing with our God given gifts to better the community we live in and help others in the spirit of charity and brotherly love. There is no doubt in my mind that Sarchie has been doing his part, which continues to this day. As I read each case, coupled with Sarchie's frank descriptions about some of his thoughts and struggles, it became abundantly clear that no one can go through all that "the work" entails without your heart and mind being in the right place. Make no mistake as Sarchie notes, this type of work requires a great deal of faith in God.
Beware The Night includes many cases and some fit into the expected scenarios as to why demonic activity occurs such as: a Satanist renting a basement apartment, someone dabbling in the occult or a teenager that played the ouija board. Sarchie notes that demonic harassment can happen by accident or by design. Some people do not take the occult seriously and think the ouija board is just a game or have no qualms about using tarot cards, attending a seance or performing witchcraft rituals. There are some that know exactly what all these and other occult elements are all about and try to tame the demonic for their own purposes. Of all his cases, I found two to be most intriguing.
The first case was classified by Sarchie as being in the "innocent victim category" which he detailed in the chapter, The House By The Graveyard. The other case was one of a curse disguised as a religious object, as detailed in the chapter Dabblers In The Damned. In explaining these cases, Sarchie also elaborates on some aspects of demonology helping the reader to understand why these events occurred.
This first of the two intriguing cases, The House By The Graveyard, did not constitute the worst case scenario of demonic possession, but one of a lesser degree of harassment, demonic infestation. Infestation is the demonic presence in a physical location, such as a house, apartment, office, warehouse or any enclosed area. Sarchie describes infestation as follows:
...where the serpents from Hell worm their way into people's lives with small, malicious acts designed to create doubt and fear, an emotion dark forces draw energy from. The demonic will announce themselves in a subtle way. Your phone may ring three times, with unnaturally short or long rings. When you pick it up, you may be greeted by unearthly growling, strange noises, static, or no sound at all. Just then there will be three knocks at the door, but no one is there when you open it. Or you may hear far more distrubing sounds: someone whispering your name when you're alone in the house, heavy breathing in your ear...you may feel someone tap you on the shoulder or have your hair pulled, and turn around and find an empty room...Certain areas of your home may develop cold spots that won't go away no matter how much you turn up the heat or may have sudden, drastic changes of temperature, as if something just sucked all the warmth from the room. You may hear footsteps walking around in empty parts of the house or the sound of heavy furniture being dragged across the floor. When you look to see the cause of the sound, nothing is out of place. Or you may be all snug in your bed, drifting off to sleep, when you hear a tapping or scratching noise coming from the walls or under the bed. Try as you might, you can't find the source of the noise. Suddenly you may get the unmistakable feeling of being watched, a sensation that makes your skin crawl. A certain room may become hostile to all who enter, even pets may refuse to go into the room, no matter how much they are coaxed. Lights may abruptly turn off, leaving you in darkness, only to blaze on in the middle of the night, jolting you from sleep...Objects may develop a will of their own, moving around the house no matter how many times you put them back...(70-71)This case involved incidents where scratching noises were heard from a ceiling and heavy footsteps inside the house, which occurred at 3:00am, which as Sarchie explains is the "witching hour," the prime time for demonic activity. Sarchie elaborates on this as the demonic effort to do things in three, to show contempt for the Holy Trinity.
None of the residents from this house by the graveyard, did anything to invite the demonic into the home. As Sarchie points out in the investigation, the home was probably once occupied by a wicked person whose spirit lingered there. It is something he suspected upon discovering from one of the tentants that the landlady refused to go into the house when coming to pick up mail, always remaining on the street. From this Sarchie explains that, "the laws of the spirit world is, "like attracts like," a place haunted by an evil ghost (the spirit of a departed person) can become a magnet for demonic forces as well.
To rid the home of the demon, Sarchie and his team took hold of the aforementioned standard spiritual weapons and began to cleanse the home. The strategy in this case was to burn incense, sprinkle holy water and salt and recite Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer simultaneously at all three levels of the house, so as to deprive the demon of any place to go. The strategy worked and it was confirmed that the demon had departed. It was a successful end to horrific nightmare.
The other intriguing case was one of a curse placed upon a religious object. At first read, that may sound somewhat strange. You might be asking yourself how is that even possible. Sarchie explains:
Curses are typically used to exact revenge. Some magicians attach their evil spells to physical objects that carry the malevolent intention into the victim's home. These are called "contact objects." Just as a religious medal blessed by a priest has a positive charge of holiness and protection, objects cursed by a sorcerer have the opposite effect. They are repositories for negative energy that acts as a catalyst for demonic infestation. Some particularly fiendish occultists spread evils by making seemingly religious objects, such as ceramics or pictures with a Christian motif, then adding something extra: a curse. These artworks are then sold at craft shows to spread the germs of evil to the pious, unsuspecting people who buy them. (172)Just so there is no misunderstanding, "contact objects" are not previously blessed objects. Any object that is blessed can not be used as a "contact object." This case involved a teacher who bought a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a local fair. The painting was cursed and when the demonic activity began to occur, Sarchie and his partner Joe Forrester were called in. Joe noticed something odd about the painting. Although it was strikingly beautiful, missing from the painting were Our Lady's feet, which is included in the actual painting depicting Our Lady trampling on a two-horned devil. This omission revealed the diabolic intent of its creation. Upon the discovery of the curse, the room temperature dropped a good twenty five degrees, indicative of a demonic presence. After Sarchie recited Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer, the room temperature came back to normal, indicating the demonic presence had departed.
There is a lot to learn on the dangers of the occult, which I suspect will become increasingly necessary in today's secular world where faith has declined sharply coupled with an increase in people dabbling in the occult. With many occult elements already apart of main stream culture here in North America, Beware The Night is a book for anyone who is serious about understanding the subject matter and a great resource on how to protect yourself from such influences coming into your life.
An end note to today's post. I had originally read this book approximately fourteen years ago. My second reading was prompted by the July'2014 movie release of Deliver Us From Evil, which is based on Beware The Night. During its July theatre run here in Toronto, I was unavailable to blog about it as I was on pilgrimage in Medjugorje. Upon noticing of Deliver Us From Evil's October release on my local cable provider's "On Demand" listing, I decided that I was not going to let the opportunity to blog about it pass me by again. To prepare for today's post, in addition to rereading Beware The Night, I also viewed Deliver Us From Evil. I hope today's post will encourage you to do likewise.
God bless Ralph Sarchie, all those involved in and connected to "the work" and anyone that endeavours to better their understanding of the demonic.