One day the angels came to present
themselves to the Lord,
and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan,
"Where have you come from?" Satan answered the Lord,
"From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." (Job
As I grew up in Boise, Idaho, I learned from my parents that
there were a couple of people my brother and I were forbidden to talk about in the house:
one was Spokane Annie, Dads wife before he married mom, and the other was known
simply as Andrea. Because of her extreme religious convictions (Andrea claimed to be an
exorcist.), Andrea was never welcome in our house though she visited Boise perhaps twice a
year just to keep in touch with my mother.
In my fourth year at the University of Oregon, I developed an
interest in members of my own family whom I had rarely if ever seen. I knew Andrea lived
just north of Portland, in an old mansion overlooking the ocean, so on spring break in
1970 my wife and I took a trip upon to see the strange relative.
I found Andrea eccentric but somewhat likable and so nurtured
a relationship that continued until her death in 1995. A couple of years before her death,
she told me the following story in order to explain her fascination with exorcism.
* * * * *
A beautiful fifteen year old blonde with the faith of
Augustine, Andrea Slocumb lived in an old red and green trim Victorian style house on land
overlooking the Oregon coast north of Portland. It was like living in the middle of a
jungle, she told me many years later. Her parents did not believe in upkeep and did not
hire workers to keep up their property, an inheritance from the mothers reputedly
wicked side of the family. Consequently, the grass grew long and wild, and bushes and
trees blanketed the area in a riot of vegetation.
The Stone Hills region, as the area was called, had rain ten
months of the year, and during the two summer months showers were common. During the
winter, an oppressive fog hung continually over the heavy forest, and during the evening,
Andrea could not see through the thick gray cloud bank to the ocean, whose proximity she
knew only by the sound of waves crashing on the cliff below her house.
When her father, Dr. Luther Slocumb, moved with his wife into
the house in the late 30s, most people in the Northwest had learned to avoid
Stone Hills. Tales of mysterious goings-on, of supernatural visitations and
manifestations, of unusually grisly murders involving dismemberment and decapitation kept
even the locals uneasy.
In the winter of 1953, her fathera tall balding man
with a graying beard and thick glasses--was a professor of psychology, teaching at a small
local college. Her mother Agnes, a striking women with short-cropped raven hair and
blood-red lips, was a renowned psychologist, who had devoted much of her life studying the
relationship between the psyche and supernatural phenomenon. Agnes doctoral
dissertation, Occult Phenomena and the Subconscious Mind, became a book that
revolutionized the field of mental health. Indeed, Andreas mother and father claimed
to believe that most so-called supernatural experiences are induced by the person
experiencing the delusions. As proof of their blatant disregard for the supernatural, they
had decorated their house with occult artifacts from all over the world.
In response to her parents beliefs, Andrea began
attending St. Marks Episcopal Church by the Sea, a small white-washed, wooden
building with a bell in the steeple when she was seven. The churchs minister, the
once youthful and energetic but now aged and stooped Father Don Gritman, had had a
tremendous influence upon Andrea. To her dying day Andrea credited her steadfast faith to
Father Gritman. Too, when she was twelve, she began reading whatever she could find on the
subject of exorcism. Demons fascinated and frightened her.
In Andreas fifteenth year, the worst of her nightmares
began two weeks after Christmas. And they continued for thirty-three days. The first night
was "a descent into the Pit of Hell," as she would often later describe it. Her
"descent" occurred on a particularly dark night of the third day following
She had spent the night "wallowing in a nightmare of
blood," dreaming of bleeding crucifixes, bloody bats, and wolves heads with
missing eyes when she awoke with a start. Eyes wide open, pulse pounding in her brain, she
knew she had heard something move in her room, located on the third floor of the house.
Strange soundspoundings on the walls, footsteps on the roof, doors slamming in other
parts of the house, an old woman screaming through the night--were not uncommon in the
mansion and had increased in occurrence in the past year, but this onethe sound of a
hulking man-beast walking through the forest, breaking dry wood with every stepset
Andrea particularly on edge and froze her blood.
Chilled and sweaty, Andrea struggled to move her arms and
legs to sit up but felt bound by invisible ropes, as if a gigantic spiders web had
been thrown over her. Unable to sit up, feeling crushing pain in her chest when she
attempted to do so, she tilted her head up and turned her eyes slowly to the foot of the
bed. She saw nothing but swirling darkness and knew as surely as she was alive that some
panting thing--a man--was standing there. She felt as if her soul were being yanked from
As she listened over the roar of her own heartbeat, she heard
the things labored breathing, as if it were gasping for breath. As she listened,
trembling, Andrea discerned what she later described as a "low whimpering bark"
and knew then that the man had been sent by Satan to claim her soul.
Terrified, she tried shouting for her mother and father,
asleep in separate rooms on the second floor in the room just below hers, but she could
not open her mouth. Panic surged within her, as she felt the blood from her heart flowing
into the dark presence, and remembering one of the chapters from The Exorcists
Handbook(a sixteenth century book printed by the Jesuits) she forced her mind to pray,
something Father Don had told her to do whenever she felt overcome by a nightmare. As she
silently, prayed, reciting the Beatitudes, Andrea found strength within her and forced the
anxiety out of her thoughts.
The anxiety, she remembered reading in a book Father Don had
given her, generally signaled the demonic. Drenched in sweat, Andrea glanced back at the
foot of her bed, hoping that the presence had dissipated along with all of the other
waking nightmares she had experienced from the time she was five or six, but the presence
stayed, darkly intangible. And she again shut her eyes, willing the thing away, never
daring to look, frightened by a swirling black mass that represented a bridge between the
natural and supernatural.
SomehowAndrea never knew how it was possible to do
soshe drifted off to sleep an hour or so before sunrise.
The next morning, beginning a pattern that she would follow
for nearly a month, Andrea dragged herself into the breakfast room, an enclosed balcony
that hung out over the cliff leading down to the pounding ocean. She was too exhausted for
school. On the counter, illuminated by the kitchen light, an old book titled Legends of
Sardonicus lay open. The book had been in this same place, open to the same picture
since before Christmas, and on Christmas Eve she had leafed through the text, committing
some of the grotesque pictures stories to memory. The book was filled with pictures of
Now, stunned by the visitation of the night before, she sat
listlessly in her straight-backed chair at breakfast table, tendrils of blonde hair
falling over her eyes, pushing her cold bacon and eggs with her fork. She was pale as a
sheet, and her mother stared coldly at her from across the table. Her father had left for
the college an hour before.
"A bad night, church girl?" Agnes asked in a
slightly sarcastic, even mocking tone. Andreas mother had never taken Andreas
recounting of her usually blood-soaked nightmares seriously and generally attributed them
to the fact that her daughter went to a church whose primitive beliefs that gave rise to
the psychoses many therapists devoted their lives to healing. Andrea had had nightmares
for as long as anyone in the house could remember and insisted, in argument after argument
with her parents, that the dreams came from the Devil. Occasionally, when moved to do so,
Andrea would read to her mother passages from The Exorcists Handbook in order
to drive her point home.
"Yes," Andrea finally said, too drained of blood
and energy to feel angry over her mothers haughty indifference. "A wickedly bad
night. But this one was as real as the bacon I am moving with my fork. It was as real as
the moon. I am sure of it. This dream was yanked from Hells bloody pit."
Her mothers head lashed back, as if she had been struck
on the cheek, but then she quickly steadied herself. Andrea knew her mother found the use
of strong descriptive language objectionable. Then, her mother assumed a cold, arrogant,
even distant look spoke worlds: Agnes believed her daughter to be marginally insane and
certainly judged her to be contemptible.
"Honey, you poor, pallid little creature," her
mother said, sipping thick black coffee, "youre just having more bad dreams.
Bad, bad dreams. Everyone has dreams and an occasional nightmare. Even your father. Even
Freud. Even God." Here Agnes laughed. "Besides, you saw nothing."
"Something was there," Andrea mumbled, remembering
again how the thing had drained her energy and blood. "I sure as hell saw
Possibly peeved by her daughters language, the mother
paused to glance across the table at Andrea. "But everyone gets over these
dreams," her mother added. "Theyre nothing, these dreams. Youll
outgrow them. Ive always told you that. Just get over them. Be a big girl now."
"When?" Andrea said, too tired to think straight.
"When? Ive had nightmares since I was six." For Andrea, nightmares were as
common as raisins.
"When you decide to let them go, dear," came the
Determined more than ever never to marry, never to have
children, Andrea often wondered if her mother treated patients in this same frigid,
hostile manner. Studying her plate, she decided that she wasnt hungry and stood and
left the table.
The nightly visitations continued, Andrea always suddenly
awaking, aware that she had heard the sound of dry twigs cracking. Every night, she sensed
the dark presence at the foot of her bed, sucking her energy and blood. She thought at one
point that, in the darkness, she could just make out a reddish glow bouncing off the foot
of her bed. She was sure she smelled blood.
One night, as she lay in bed fighting sleep which would snap
her up like a dragon and seeking a source for these recent visitations, Andrea remembered
having seen a picture in a nineteenth century theater textbook that her father kept in a
bookshelf in the cellar. She had looked through the book several years ago, and now
realized that it was the same book that she had seen on Christmas Eve: Legends of
Sardonicus. How, she wondered, could I have not made the obvious connection? Her
father and mother had kept hundreds of old books on the occult in a dark corner of the
basement for as long as she could remember. What she particularly remembered about the
book was a disturbing picture just inside the hard cover of the book. It was as if the
picture had life of its own; she had noticed that where ever she moved, the eyes of the
ghoulishly grinning, gray-skinned man in the picture seemed to follow her. According to
one of the legends contained in the book, Sardonicus was a ghoul who craved his
victims blood and soul.
The story and picture had made a lasting impression. She
knew, as she lay in bed, that she had identified the invisible presence.
That night, hours later, as she jolted sickeningly awake, she
found herself sitting upright in bed. As she waited, breathing rapidly, she stared at the
darkness. With the help of the little light provided by the full moon that danced red
behind the perpetual shroud of clouds that cloaked the land, she could barely make out
shapes in her room: her writing desk to her left and just below the great window, her
European closet to her right, and the straight-backed chair on the other side of the room.
The room seemed filled with an unnatural darkness that clung to the corners and walls.
She looked at the silhouette of the great chair that sat just
before the window overlooking the ocean and realized, slowly, with a gasp, that someone
was sitting there. In silence, she heard the labored guttural breathing over the sound of
the waves breaking and the wind buffeting the house. She visualized the ghoulish grin
frozen on the mans face, felt his eyes on her, boring into her; yet she could not
make out his face.
She was sure this was Sardonicus but, try as she might, could
not utter his name. Then, slowly, conscious surely that it was being watched, the figure
rose, stood tall and thin, moved to her left and towards the wall, and was swallowed by
the darkness. The thing had gone into the wall. As she sat in bed, heart beating rapidly,
she said weakly "Whos there?" and waited, motionless for perhaps an hour,
sensing the thing move slowly through the wall towards her. She tried to scream, found
that she could not.
Surely, this is death, she told herself. This is death
"Yes," hissed a voice somewhere from the darkness
to her right, "this is death."
Andreas heart stopped beating, and she imagined
something dark gripping her neck.
She had the impression of having broken through to something
forbidden, knew in an instant that Satan and his legions did populate the dark places of
the planet. Inwardly, she forced herself to cry to God. Dark cold penetrated her body,
filled it like freezing black grease, and, for an instant, trembling, out of her mind, she
knew that she would die; her blood would turn to ice before the night was out.
She began silently saying the twenty-third Psalm: "The
Lord is my shepherd,/ I shall not want...." Mysteriously, as the minutes ticked by,
she finally lost consciousness and drifted back to sleep.
For the entire next day, as she numbly moved through classes,
she felt as if her brain had become fragmented. Yet, distraught as she was, she asked her
parents over dinner that evening about the book in the cellar. A violent winter storm was
sweeping the area, and the house shook from the screaming wind. When she told them about
the visitation and mentioned her belief that the mysterious being in her room and the man
in the photoSardonicus--were the same, her parents only glanced at each other in
what seemed a conspirational silence. Her mother smiled; her father frowned.
"Why do you keep such a thing, this evil book?" she
hissed first her father, seated at one end of the long table, and then her mother, seated
at the other end. Both parents were dressed like they were going to a formal evening
dinner party. With the question, her mind refocused and the sense of splitting into
pieces, vanished. "At the very least, the fucking thing gives me the worst nightmare
of my life." She stopped, frozen. Never before had she used the word
"fucking" in front of her parents.
Abruptly, her parents stopped eating, staring hatefully at
each other for several minutes, the wind outside blasting at the old house, shaking the
pine tree branches rubbing against the windows. Finally, looking straight ahead and beyond
her husband at the window behind him, her mother answered in a restrained voice, "I
used the book years ago when I wrote my dissertation on the connection between so-called
occult phenomenon and the human psyche. Though it reached legendary status, the Sardonicus
story does have some factual basis."
"Agnes," the father began, timidly. Andrea had
known for a long time that her father feared her mother.
"The book came from your fathers family," the
mother added, glancing at her daughter.
"Agnes, please," the father pleaded, weakly
clearing his throat.
"I think she needs to know, Luther old boy," Agnes
responded, and it occurred to Andrea that her mother was slightly drunk from too much red
dinner wine. "Since the one who became known as Sardonicus belongs in your family, I
think youre the one to tell her."
Andrea was stunned. What did this mean, she wondered? She had
read bits of the book, and having assumed that the Sardonicus legends had no basis
in reality, she was now being told that someone on her fathers side of the family,
many years ago, had done something to earn the name. "What does this mean,
father?" she asked. "Did this character really exist?"
At this, the fathers gaze fixed almost disdainfully for
an instant upon Agnes. Then, moments later, the mans expression softened, and in the
darkening gray of the evening he began. "Well, the story is simple enough. And no,
Sardonicus never really existed except in the minds of the villagers who branded your
great relative with a name that implied the commission of a transgression that I am sure
he did not commit. Your great-great-great Grandfather Isaac lived in Rumania, in a section
known in vampire folklore as Transylvania. Anyway, Isaac buried his father and later
learned that his father had a winning lottery ticket upon him. Thus, as the story goes,
Isaac spent one entire night digging up the fathers grave, prying open the casket,
going through the corpses pockets. Having found the ticket, he came home where he
stumbled about in the darkness of the bed room. This is where the story seems to lose
connection with reality. According to the wife, whose accounting youll find in that
book, she only heard the man breathing laboriously through the mouth and steadily
whimpering. When she lit the lamp, she was confronted by her husbands grotesquely
disfigured face. Your great grandfather had become a ghoul, grin frozen on his face, and
as soon as word spread in the village he became known as Mr. Sardonicus. Word spread, too,
that he was possessed by the devil."
In the pause, the wind outside grew silent, it seemed to
Andrea as if the entire universeangels, demons, even God--were peering through the
large windows and into this room, listening to the fathers tale.
The father continued. "Isaac apparently used the money
to buy a castle where he remainedand here we leap into the purely
fantastic--feasting according mainly off the blood of others. There. "
A pause ensured, as Andrea tried to absorb the chilling tale.
"Jesus Christ," she whispered, just loud enough for both parents to hear, not
sure if the were swearing or praying.
"There is no record of Sardonicus death, "
her father concluded, sniffing in professorial fashion. "Some say he just
Pieces of the puzzle were falling into place as Andrea forced
her thoughts to the sudden whoosh of the rain outside the dining room windows, hoping to
cleanse her mind of the image her fathers story had implanted in her brain, and
began silently praying for her own soul. She decided that the next day, after school, she
would take the book out of the house and go into the town church, where she would talk to
But even though she searched every part of the cellar, every
nook and cranny of the house, Andrea didnt find the book the next day or the day
after and couldnt go to the old priest, who had died a month earlier and whose
rotting corpse had recently been found in his bed. And then, in an epiphanal moment over
lunch at school one day, it occurred to her that, possibly, her mother was using her for
Experimentation or not, the visitations continued for
twenty-six more nights. Every night, Andrea tried to sit up in bed; most nights she was
bound, as with a rope; every night she struggled to call out to her parents; every night
she knew terror.
Andrea told me that on one particular night she opened her
eyes in the darkness, certain that something had whispered her name, caught a glimpse, and
shut them again. The room was freezing. The man was there, standing at the foot of her bed
for the twenty-seventh night in a row. She could clearly see his emaciated shape now, his
mouth a hideous grin.
She tightly shut her eyes, felt freezing fear start at her
feet and work its way up her body to her head as she sensed the man slowly approach her.
She could hear and feel him walking from the foot of the bed to where she lay. The fear
felt like something dark and prickly sliding through her. Her tongue began to feel numb,
as if coated by a fungus, and her mouth felt as if a stick ran from the roof of her mouth
and into her throat; as she listened to the rapid beating of her heart and felt the
mans thin dry hands crawl over her face. The hands were large dirty spiders. She
knew the man was standing right over her; she could smell a rotting stench, hear the man
breath through his teeth, but refused to open her eyes.
She lay stiff as a board, trembling, breathing rapidly,
trapped in the horrible darkness that held the man, who by now was leaning over her.
Pulling her sheet away from her, he ran his hand over her young body, exploring her
femininity And then she began to pray aloud: "Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed
"Praying wont help you," the man hissed,
inches from her ear.
She began again: "Our Father, Who art...."
"God cant hear you!" the man growled.
"God cant hear you!! Hell never hear you."
Andrea looked at the foot of the bed, too frightened to
"Hell never hear you," the creature said,
"because he cant. He doesnt exist. So, little girl, you have to come with
me." Slowly, the man climbed into the bed and positioned himself so that he was lying
on Andrea. Andrea couldnt stop shaking.
Silently, feeling that she was suffocating, she prayed to
Jesus, and as she did she suddenly remembered a sermon she had heard long ago, given by
Father Don, on breaking the power of darkness. It was a sermon on deliverance from demonic
oppression and possession. "Oh Sweet Jesus," she began aloud, searching her mind
for the words the old priest had counseled people to say when faced with evil.
"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!"
"He cant help!!" the creature shrieked,
obviously shaken, jumping off the bed, standing erect, putting its hands over its ears,
then spinning backwards, then coming right at Andrea.
Before Andrea had a chance to continue her prayer, the thing
had her by the hair, was dragging her shrieking, clawing, and biting out of bed and across
the floor and then hitting her in the face again and again.
As Andrea knelt before the thing, her mind dizzy from the
blows, she heard something inside of her tell her to pray again.
So, her face bruised and her nose bleeding, Andrea summoned
her strength and faith, and exclaimed with what she described years later as the power of
an exorcist, "I bind you, Sardonicus, arms, legs, feet, and hands. I bind you, dirty
hellish rat, to Perdition. I commit you, in Jesus name, to the furthest pit of
Hell...!" Her voice, she told me, was uncommonly bold, other worldly, as if something
or someone were speaking through her.
The effect was stunning and immediate. As a slight breeze
began to move through the bedroom, the creature released Andrea and quickly backed away.
"No, no, you fucking wicked shit-faced brat!" came the horrible voice, now
trembling, cracking. "Not this shit...!" The thing shrieked like a caged beast,
shaking the walls of the room. "You little cunt!" it screamed; "you rotten
As the breeze built to a wind, Andrea continued the prayer
again knowing that the creature was becoming powerless and willing it to be cast forever
into the great outer darkness.
During her prayer, wind blasting about her, Andrea kept her
eyes off the creature, afraid to look. Suddenly, the night became deathly still, like a
train suddenly stopping at night in the middle of nowhere, and Andrea didnt move. As
the thing shrieked and bellowed, Andrea glanced up, knew immediately that she had somehow
opened a gate to Hell. She saw a yellow ,fiery glow surrounding the man and a dark funnel
cloud spinning out from the center of the yellow and enveloping and crushing the figure.
As her neck froze and the top of her head went numb, she sensed as well something huge and
unnamable striding boldly, angrily for the creature known as Sardonicus, wondering at the
same time what being it was that strode to and fro across the face of the earth. The glow
provided slight illumination in the room and allowed Andrea to notice that, around the
room, her walls and ceiling were thickly dripping with blood. Blood poured down the wall
from the ceiling, staining the wall paper and carpet, filling the room with a sickening
metallic stench that made Andrea puke.
She felt, then, the larger darker presence in the room, knew
instinctively that this other thing also had a personality and that it had come to claim
Sardonicus. As a woman of faith, bound to God, she knew this dark prince could not touch
her. As the darkness swirled and swirled, Andrea could see Sardonicus, hands over his ears
and eyes shut, slowly disappearing, consumed by the dark cloud, which sucked him out of
the natural realm like a black hole. As she watched, the darkness in the center of the
yellow growing larger, Sardonicus disappeared into nothingness with one fierce,
Andrea sat and thought, panting like a beast. Shivering, she
knew that according to her Handbook the spirit would return several more times
before it was completely banished from the household. Each time, however, the battle would
be a little less intense than the one before.
It must have been a half hour later that Andrea finally
responded to the knocking on the door. Tired, bruised, nearly beaten, Andrea rose from the
floor, used the back of her arm to wipe the partially-dried blood from her nose, and
approached and opened the door.
It was her mother, dressed in a winter robe, smoking a
cigarette, and smiling disdainfully. "Everything all right in here, little one?"
Agnes asked, blowing smoke into her daughters room.
Andrea shuddered. You fucking old witch, she silently spat at
her mother. Somehow, Andrea thought, Agnes is responsible for this.
For a minute, Andrea stared at her mother, saying nothing,
wondering if Sardonicus had been figment of her imagination, a psychotic construction of
her own superstitious nature. Maybe, she suddenly thought, her mother had been right all
"I said, Andrea darling, is every thing
hunky-dory?" Agnes asked. "I thought I heard screams."
"You did," Andrea said, "mine and his."
"Yourand, what, Sardonicus?"
"Step in, mother, and see for yourself," Andrea
beckoned. "Feel these fucking walls." Glancing back into her room, Andrea had
noticed that walls were indeed covered in blood. She wondered how her mother could not
"You sure?" Agnes stated, teetering slightly.
"Come on in," Andrea repeated the invitation.
Agnes stepped into the room. Andrea watched her mothers
expression change as Agnes looked slowly around the whole room, a sickly smile on her
face, and then slowly put her hand on the wall next to the door. Agnes stepped back and
held up her hand for her daughter to see. The hand was smeared with blood.
"Well, Mother, what do you think?" Andrea asked.
"Quite a little nightmare youve had here,
honey," replied Agnes, staring at the walls and wiping her bloodied hand onto her
"Theres blood on these fucking walls, Mother! Am I
making that up?" Andrea shouted.
But Agnes simply turned to her daughter, leaned forward to
give her a cold peck on the cheek, and then said in the hollow determined voice that had
become her mark among her peers, "Nothing is wrong, Andrea. Nothing at all. Actually,
everything is at it should be. Now, good night, honey bunch."
"Be sure to come back for more tomorrow," Andrea
hissed at her mother, surprised by the new bold hatred she felt for Agnes. Andrea watched
her mother walk stiffly down the hall to the staircase. Secretly, as Agnes began
descending the stairs, Andrea wished her mother an eternity in hell.
Now certain that the battle with her mother as well as the
powers of darkness had only begun, confident in her newly discovered God-given ability to
kick hell out of the devil and all his legions, Andrea shut the door, and went back to
bed. She needed to save her energy for Sardonicus, who would return the next night.
Picking the Handbook off her night stand and clutching it to her chest in the dark
room, Andrea was sure he would return.
© Rich Logsdon