This is a translation from the original Spanish of an article that appeared originally as "Witness to Exorcism in Madrid" on September 22, 2002 by Jose Manuel Vidal in "El Mundo." It first appeared on Spero in April 2005.
The Religion correspondent of the Spanish daily, “El Mundo”, skeptically attended an exorcism conducted by Rev. Jose Antonio Fortea, a priest and Vatican-authorized exorcist. But he is moved once he sees what happens to a young woman possessed by Satan. In this two-and-a-half hour session, Javier Paredes – director of Hispanidad.com, was also present.
Reported by José Manuel Vidal
“Hic est dies” – Today is the day, says the exorcist while holding a crucifix.
“No.” growls a hoarse male voice from the throat of a pretty twenty-year-old girl.
“Exi nunc, Zebulon” – Come out now, Zebulon, repeats the priest.
“Why don’t you want to leave?”
“To be a sign.”
“A sign of what?”
“That Satan lives.”
The tension mounts in the darkened chapel. Satan is fighting with God. And I have a front-row seat for this battle for the first time in my life. “This must be the reason why he invited me to witness the exorcism. Satan wants publicity”, I think in the midst of shock. My mind is spinning wildly. We are at the climax of a ritual that until now had not entered into my scheme of thinking. And this is considering that in seminary the priests always managed to pique my childish fear of the Evil One, who is always ready to seize hold of souls. After Second Vatican Council, the teachings about Satan’s existence became a “shameful part of Church doctrine” and, like many other Catholics, I came to discredit it.
The exorcist, José Antonio Fortea, pastor of Our Lady of Zulema, is exhausted. And he is only 33 years old. But he has fought Satan for more than an hour, crucifix at the ready. Marta (not her real name), the possessed girl, is as strong as she was at the beginning despite grunting, moaning, twisting and shaking her body like a top. Having strength unusual for a 20 year-old girl, she is slender and has delicate features. It is 12:30 p.m. on an ordinary day and I have witnessed an exorcism for an hour and a half.
Two days before, I received a special call on my mobile phone. It was not special for being from a priest (I receive many), but special for being from a Catholic exorcist (there are two in Spain) and because they keep their distance from journalists. He invites me to witness an exorcism. It stopped me in my tracks. To witness an exorcism by a Vatican-authorized priest is a real treat for a journalist specializing in religion. Despite having more than 20 years’ experience in the profession, I had only ever managed to interview Father Gabriel Amorth, the official exorcist of Rome. When I met him, he dedicated a copy of his book with these words: “To José Manuel, with gratitude and with the advice that you should never fear the devil.”
I must confess that it was out of fear that I decided to return Father Fortea’s call and ask him to permit a fellow specialist in religion from the EFE news-service to accompany me. He accepted. Nervously, we went by car to the diocese of Alcalá de Henares on the day of the appointment. It was a sunny and splendid day. We arrived at the parish with great anticipation. It was a matter of being psychologically prepared. On the road, we nervously told jokes.
The exorcist had told us to meet him at his parish, which has a modern red brick church situated in a grove of pine trees. The church’s interior was simple and clean. It has a great cross situated in the middle of a high altarpiece. On one side is a holy water font bearing the inscription, “Holy water keeps Satan at bay.”
At 10:30 a.m., the exorcist leaves the church to meet us. He is tall and thin. He wears eyeglasses and has a well-groomed beard. He is an imposing figure. Perhaps it is because of his profession of casting out demons. His pallor and prominent forehead are made all the more prominent by the immaculate black cassock that he wears. He invites us on a walk to give us the background on the case.
“I am not a showman nor do I want publicity. You are here because I need you in order to free the girl. You will have to be very careful. You must not convey any evidence that would tend to identify the girl or her mother. I would prefer that you refrain from naming me, but I accept the sacrifice for the sake of greater credibility. God knows what it will cost me and the problems it will cause. But don’t be frightened. Nothing will happen to you.” He insists on the seriousness of the matter. He points out that in the Old Testament, the word “Satan” appears eighteen times.
And in the New Testament, the word “devil” appears thirty-five times and the word “demon” appears twenty-one times. Jesus himself undertook many exorcism or what the Gospels call “casting out demons.” Father Fortea recalls too that Pope John Paul II has conducted at least three known exorcisms and notes that the belief in the devil is one of the few traits common to practically all religions. “It is an ecumenical issue, par excellence.” He takes the opportunity to give a short overview of various religions, historical periods, and diverse theories. I remain incredulous. I get the feeling that he is trying to convince us by seeking justification in history.
In order to bring him down to earth, we ask him for details of the case. He tells us there is a girl involved who has been possessed by seven demons. He had already expelled six, but the last one is fighting back. “Its name is Zebulon, an almost mute but very intelligent demon.” His name is in the Bible. The chief demon always remains at the end. I have had sixteen sessions and still have not been able to expel him, while normally only two or three sessions are needed.”
He does not wish to give any more details about the possessed girl. He will only say that she will be accompanied by her mother, “a true saint”, and that she became possessed at the age of sixteen after a schoolmate had placed a spell on her. “During one of the first sessions, I asked how she had become possessed and I was given a name I did not recognize. Her mother told me that it was a classmate who had invoked Satan to place a death spell on her. And so, she became gravely ill and reached the point of death. Once she got better, strange things began to happen.”
Ever since then, the mother began to detect strange things about her daughter: furniture that moved and objects that broke by themselves and, above all, the girl’s avoidance of all religious objects especially at Sunday Mass. Finally, one night the mother got up when she heard strange noises and, when she opened the door to her daughter’s room, saw her levitating above the bed.
Since she does not want to lose her only child, she seeks help. She speaks with her parish priest, who sends her to two famous psychiatrists. But both of them diagnose the girl as perfectly normal. No scientific explanation could be found for the constant headaches that afflict the girl. It was then that Maria (not her real name), at sixty years of age, seeks an exorcist. She goes to almost every diocese of Spain. Not one bishop wants to hear about the case. She is ready to move with her daughter to Italy to see Father Amorth, when she is told that a Spanish exorcist had just appeared on television concerning of his book about exorcism, entitled Demoniacum.
At that moment, we see a taxi arrive. “It’s them”, says Fr. Fortea. Maria, the mother, is small and frail. She has a look of great pain. “I believe in God and I know that, sooner or later, He will free my daughter from the clutches of Zebulon. I have been on this Calvary for five years. No one in my family knows about it; not even my brothers”, she confesses. Maria is a widow and, every time she goes from her house to an appointment with the exorcist (practically once a week), she has to come up with excuses. “They wouldn’t understand, and I don’t want my daughter to be marked for life.”
The rite of exorcism
At her mother’s side, Marta smiles timidly. She is delicate and has large brown and slightly sad eyes. Her face is marked by a sad adolescence. Her hair is black and swept back into a pony-tail. Her full lips, untouched by makeup, are contracted in apparent pain. She is wearing jeans, a short-sleeved high-necked blue blouse, and a pair of black shoes. She is pretty. Her eyes are attractive but project fear, a great deal of fear, rather than shyness. She seems like a normal girl, who tells us that she is studying mathematics at the university. I think to myself, “She can’t be possessed.”
Beneath the church, Father Fortea opens the chapel where he says daily Mass and then locks it from the inside. The chapel is small and inviting. The exorcist asks for help in bringing a large heavy mattress, covered in green plastic, to the foot of the altar. The window-less rectangular chapel is about twenty-five yards square. At its head is an enormous altar covered by white linen. There are six candles burning before a great cross of the Trinity, which is barely lit by a flickering halogen lamp. Behind it is a painting of a triumphant Christ as well as the tabernacle. To the side, is the Madonna with the Child Jesus in her arms.
Upon entering the chapel, the mother and daughter prepare for the rite of exorcism. Marta puts on a pair of white socks, while her mother places a rosary, a six-inch crucifix, and a picture of Our Lady of Fatima to the side of the mattress. In my mind, I try to record the smallest details. I continue to think that I am on a movie set. Marta lies down face-up on the mattress, gazing at the crucifix. Maria kneels at her side, in a position that she will not leave for the next two-and-a-half hours. Father Frotea prays for a while on his knees, removes his cassock, takes a drink of water, and positions himself at the end of the mattress furthest from the altar.
I feel that the ritual is about to begin and sit expectantly on a pew. The exorcist extends his right hand and places it just over the girl’s face without touching her. Then, he closes his eyes, bows his head and whispers a prayer several times. It is then that the first unsettling shriek breaks the silence of the chapel, penetrating my soul and making my flesh crawl. It is not human. A profound and overwhelming howl comes out of Marta’s throat. But it cannot be her and is not her voice. It is hoarse and masculine. Father Fortea continues to pray while the howling goes on. Little by little the girl’s body begins to tremble violently. She begins moving slowly from side to side at first, and shakes violently thereafter.
“Be gone, Zebulon.”
Confronted by the exorcist’s chanting, the girl constantly twists and turns. Suddenly, her squeals become a loud, furious, and terrifying bellow. The exorcist has just placed the crucifix upon her abdomen while sprinkling the girl with holy water. She kicks with such fury that the crucifix falls off, while her mother picks it up and replaces it again and again. She also brings a rosary to the girl, who furiously casts it away. She seems to be quiet for a moment but then immediately begins to roar. She has not even taken a breath. When the girl hears Father Fortea invoke the name of St. George, she grunts and then turns her eyes up into their sockets, arches her body, and rises completely off the mattress. I can’t believe it.
“Kiss the crucifix”, says the exorcist.
“Jesus is your king.”
“Assee dee dee dee dah.”
“Slave of Satan, you are in darkness.”
“Assee dee dee dee dah.”
“You are doing good work. Because of you, many people will believe in God”.
“In the name of Christ I order you, be gone Zebulon. Eternal damnation awaits you. There is no salvation for you.”
While Father Fortea continues to exhort Zebulon, the girl’s hands have been transformed into talons. The exorcist accelerates his prayers and exhortations, “Today is the day. Be gone, Zebulon. Leave this child in the name of God.” The girl shakes uncontrollably. Her screams are frightening. In a hoarse voice, comes the cry “Assassins!” When Father Fortea asks Zebulon why he will not leave her, the demon responds “So that people will believe in Satan.”
Worn out after an hour and a half of combat, the exorcist rises and leaves the chapel. This cannot be fakery or a put-on. It takes guts to do this. It is a good thing that cases of possession are quite rare, says Father Fortea. He has done them for five years and has had only four in Spain. However, while he was studying for his thesis, he attended thirteen others. It is obvious that he has had practice; he commands and insists, and mercilessly tortures the demon in a soft but firm voice. He does it in the name of God and always where it hurts the most. And this is even though he knows what it is like to be assailed by Satan. Once, during an exorcism, the devil made him feel the pain of having a knife thrust into his arm.
Fortea leaves the chapel and my heart begins to pound, wondering what can happen without the exorcist’s tranquil presence. But nothing happens. But then Maria, the mother, takes over the ritual and begins to repeat the same or similar phrases used by the priest. Calmly, but decisively, she seems not to speak to her daughter but to the Evil One who possesses her.
“In the name of Christ, I order you to leave.”
“Open your eyes and look upon the Virgin”, Maria commands while placing a print bearing the image of Our Lady of Fatima within the girl’s sight. The only response is a grunt. She then takes up the crucifix.
“He is your Creator, do you see him?”
“Yes,” says the other-worldly voice amid constant grunts and howls.
“Look at Him, Zebulon, don’t fight it. You know that the day and hour are upon you. Your day and hour have come.”
“Why do you resist?”
“I’m fed up. I have already told you many times.”
“Tell these gentlemen why you won’t leave.”
“I don’t want to.”
“In the name of Christ, say why.”
“So that they will believe in Satan.”
“Come, St. George, come. Come, St. George. Leave her, St. George.”
The possessed girl pauses for a moment, smiles and through her the demon says scornfully, “Leave, St. George.”
Having caught the woman off-guard, the demon would soon afterward catch the priest in a small error. But Maria is not easily vanquished. She is truly a Mater Dolorosa at the foot of her possessed daughter’s cross. Even I am now moved to drop to my knees and tearfully beg God (though I do not dare to intervene more directly), before anything else, to free Marta. My colleague does the same. It had been a long time since I had prayed with such fervor.
The exorcist then returns, bringing a small box filled with consecrated Hosts from the tabernacle, and stands before the girl.
“Look upon the King of Kings,” he says, “Kneel before Him.”
“Disobedient and rebellious servant, kneel”, repeats Fr. Fortea while he holds the consecrated Host.
“Assassin, leave me.”
“St. George, make him kneel.”
At the mention of St. George, the possessed girl fell to her knees while Fr. Fortea forced her to receive Holy Communion in her mouth. He returned to torturing the demon that inhabited Marta. After giving her Communion, he grasped a Bible and read from Revelation, “…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”, making the demon repeat each word.
“Repeat after me: it would have been better for me to have followed the Light.”
“It would have been better for me to have followed the Light,” repeated the demon while grinding his teeth and dragging out each word.
So it went for a long while. The exorcist seems like a teacher instructing a stubborn child who reluctantly repeats, between grunts and howls, phrases such as “Lord, you are my King. I am your creature. Nothing is beyond your power. You are the Alpha and the Omega.”
“No more. I’m exhausted,” the demon moans.
But Fr. Fortea emboldens his assault, brings up a stool and sits before the girl while holding a crucifix. “Hic est dies,” he repeats. For a moment, I think he is going to do it.
“The longer you take to leave, the more people will believe in God. You are proclaiming God. Come close, sit up and kiss the crucified Christ. Give him a kiss of respect and homage.”
Like a zombie, Marta sits up and draws closer to the cross. Showing the whites of her eyes, she sputters at the mouth but she kisses the cross. Fortea then gently takes her by the arm, gets her up, and makes her walk through the chapel and kiss the tabernacle and image of the Madonna.
“God is here. Repeat seven times: Iesus, lux mundi.” The girl repeats the words, but when she finishes she casts a burning stare at him and says, “Assassin, leave me alone. I can’t take it any more.” But the exorcist goes on.
An hour has now passed. Fortea takes a break. “Your turn,” he says to the mother and leaves the chapel. So Maria inclines herself toward Marta and begins to hector Zebulon.
"You must leave this girl. By the blood of Christ, leave her now. The angels are with her. Three archangels are coming now. The Virgin will crush your head…”
Zebulon continues to groan and writhe but does not seem willing to leave. After a while, Fr. Fortea returns.
“Do you not fear God’s punishment?”
“I know what it is!” he howls.
Alone with the demoniac
Fr. Fortea glances at the mother, “He won’t go. Let’s leave him for today.” He stands up and leaves. The howling ends abruptly. I see a note of disappointment in Maria’s face. I get the impression that she hoped it would be today. She has been on her knees for almost three hours, but there is no sign of fatigue in face – only defeated expectations. She takes up the crucifix and the print of the Madonna and leaves the chapel. My companion and I are now alone with the demoniac. A few seconds seem like an eternity.
We are glued to the bench, hardly breathing. Suddenly, she turns toward us, opens her eyes (only the whites of which we had seen for three hours) and fixes a gaze on us that I will never forget as long as I live. Her eyes are from beyond this world. I have never seen anything like this, ever. In an instant, the gaze is now Marta’s, who smiles at us, calmly gets up, and sits on the pew to remove and carefully fold her socks. I note that she has not broken a sweat, despite three hours of continuous movement. She puts on her earrings and smiles at us again.
“How are you?,” I ask.
“Do you know what has happened?”
“No, I don’t remember.” While she is talking to us, she lovingly kisses the print and the crucifix that she had so recently seemed to despise.
“Does your throat hurt?”
Her voice is as gentle now as when she arrived. No one could say that from that same throat had emerged such howls for three hours.
“Do you know why you are here?”
“Yes, I know. I know that I have…”
She does not finish her sentence. We respect her silence. The five of us leave the chapel and sit down in an adjacent room. Marta is calm. She is again the timid little girl of before. “Every night,” says Maria, “before going to bed, I take the crucifix that never leaves my side, and bless my room, ‘In the name of God, evil spirits leave this room. She always asks me, before going to bed, ‘Mama, have you blessed the room?’” But even so, she is frightened. For example, once her daughter’s hands turned into talons upon touching the cross, and her fingers once became like horns ready to plunge into her eyes. “These are threats that, fortunately, she never carries out.”
Before taking her leave, Marta utters a plea, “The bishops and people should know about this. There should be more exorcists.” Embracing her daughter, they get into Fr. Fortea’s car and depart. Marta turns and looks back at us. Her eyes seem to cry out with the anguish of a slave in shackles. Fr. Fortea promises to call me when the girl is finally freed.
I pray for Marta and her mother. What I witnessed was not fakery.
“He does not talk much, but he is quite intelligent.” This is how Fr. Fortea describes Zebulon, his enemy for more than seven months. In the beginning, Fr. Fortea simply thought that this was the name of the tenth son of Jacob and his wife Leah. Later, after having investigated a little more, he realized that he was dealing with one of the most powerful demons of hell.
He has appeared only three times in history. The first was during the 15th century in Loudon, France. Nearly all of the nuns in a convent there were possessed and tormented ceaselessly by an army of demons. Their chief was Zebulon. The second time was during the 1950s during an exorcism done by Father Candide, the master Italian exorcist who taught Fr. Amorth. He had now reappeared.
So that they will know that Satan lives
The editorial found on Hispanidad.com for Monday, September 30th, is long but I assure you that it is worthwhile. It is a description, in first person, of an exorcism ritual celebrated in a chapel located in Alcalá de Henares district of Madrid whose purpose was to liberate a young woman possessed by a demon. During the two-and-a-half hour session, both Javier Paredes (Opinion Editor of Hispanidad.com) and Luis Losada (the reporter) were present.
A previous session, reported by the Religion editor of “El Mundo” newspaper, José Manuel Vidal, and the lead for the same area of the EFE news agency, caused a great controversy. The session was reported in “El Mundo”, and Vidal wrapped it up by saying that it was not “fakery.” The immediate reaction on the part of many (for example, on the part of “El Mundo” readers) has been the same: How can a serious newspaper tell such things? That is, it seems that no one has bothered to adopt a more scientific attitude and examine the events. In this case, as in any other discovery or human story, there are three possible attitudes: someone duped the witnesses to the exorcism, the witnesses are lying, or demons really do exist and take possession of another spirit since human beings are nothing but a combination of body and spirit.
Nevertheless, many have decided without scientific proof that the report is untrue. This is because they are not ready to accept the existence of spirits despite the evidence. What about the evidence, they conclude. And on top of everything they get angry and insult the witnesses. What is going on?
I urge you to read the testimony provided by Luis Losada, seconded by Javier Paredes, without any prejudgment. On your conclusions about the story may depend everything or nothing, but it will certainly put your composure to the test. So …
I return to one of the sessions of exorcism conducted by Fr. Fortea. I write excitedly. Zebulon’s howls, the prayers of the priest and the mother of the demoniac, still haunt my conscience. I believe that “They shall not prevail”, but am afraid. I would go back if I could and would not have come to this session. My soul is disturbed by the brutal encounter with the demon.
Zebulon has occupied Marta’s body “so that they will know” that Satan lives. This is one of the answers that Zebulon gave to the exorcist when asked why he would not depart from her body. This is why the girl’s mother, Maria, has asked me when we parted to tell the whole world so that her daughter can be liberated as soon as possible.
“Father, may we report on the things we have seen?”
“You may report what you like. The things of the Light do not fear the Light, but the things of darkness seek darkness.”
Without a doubt, there must be a reason for my being at this exorcism which, over time, I will uncover. Meanwhile, I can only discern my own rather base motivations. Journalistic or sick curiosity, naiveté, and ignorance caused me to accept the offer of my friend and colleague Javier Paredes of Radio Intereconomia to come with him to the exorcism. Lacking any psychological preparation, I grab a taxi to take me to the parish in Madrid where Fr. Fortea will celebrate the sixteenth chapter in Marta’s exorcism.
Marta is a young, apparently sweet girl, who comes to the session with a commixture of fear and expectation that the “nightmare” will go away. When “everything” has concluded, she will tell us that she is tired even though she has no recollection of what we have gone through over two seemingly eternal hours. Maria, her mother, is small and delicate. She is strung out, perhaps overwhelmed, but she is still strong enough to have remained on her knees next to her daughter throughout the two hours of the exorcism.
Without any preparation, nor speaking very much, Fr. Fortea shows Javier and me our seats on a bench in the chapel. There is no one else. There are only two conditions: turn off our mobile phones and ask permission when we want to leave the session. That is not too much to ask in order to witness the most startling event a person can ever see. With little ado, Marta lies down on the mattress that she had earlier helped to place. Her mother kneels at her side. Javier and I remain on the bench discreetly, expectantly, and cowardly.
Fr. Fortea gets down on his knees and prays in silence for a few minutes. He then sits above Marta on the mattress and places his hand over her head and begins to call on God. Upon the pronouncing of the Lord’s name, Marta shudders and her eyes turn up into their sockets where they will remain for the duration of the exorcism. When the priest invokes the name of St. George, Marta begins to convulse amid horrifying shrieks.
What Javier and I witnessed for two-and-a-half hours still oppresses my soul and was just the first chapter. It is now 2:30 a.m. and more than twelve hours have passed since the exorcism ended. I am still tense and restless, but I am praying for Marta and her mother. But I also pray for those witnesses who have come to the chapel where Zebulon has been so palpably present.
Suddenly, the priest commands the demon, “In the name of Jesus Christ, depart from this girl!”
“No!” responds the supernatural voice emanating from Marta’s body. It is not Marta’s voice. It is hoarse, strong, and full of hate. There is hatred behind all of Zebulon’s answers. Even a simple yes or no is enveloped in hate. You can feel it.
“By my power as a priest, I order you to leave this woman”, continues Fr. Fortea.
“Aiyeee!” replies Zebulon, between screams and spasms shaking Marta’s body. She convulses.
Despite her prone position, she bounces unbelievably. If it were not for the mattress, she would be seriously injured. Incredibly, even though she had been screaming furiously for two hours, she showed not the least sign of hoarseness when we leave.
Despite the exorcist’s repeated orders to depart from the girl’s body, Zebulon still puts up a fight. To pressure him, Fr. Fortea reminds Zebulon that because of him many people will come to believe in God. Marta, or whatever is living inside her, is writhing violently. It was then that Fr. Fortea assaulted him again by reminding the demon that eternal damnation awaited him and that there was nothing he could do. Zebulon howled despondently.
Later, Fr. Fortea “armed himself” with a print of the Virgin of Fatima as well as a cross. Displaying the image, the priest orders Zebulon to kiss it.
“Arggh! No,” says the unnatural voice coming from Marta’s young feminine body.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to kiss this image,” insists the exorcist.
“I refuse!” responds Zebulon as Marta’s body shrieks, howls, and convulses.
Fr. Fortea takes a short recess and begs St. George for help. At the name of St. George, Marta writhes. Of all of the saints and angels, the name of St. George is the most effective for this demon. Pronouncing his name achieves an immediate effect. I pity Marta for her screams and convulsions, but I see approval of the ritual in her mother’s serene gaze. It is not Marta who is writhing in pain; it is Zebulon who is being tortured by the exorcist.
“You know that you will have to leave sooner or later. I order you, depart!”
“Noooo!” Zebulon answers.
“Alright, you asked for it,” says Fr. Fortea, “I’m going to splash holy water on you.”
“Arggh!” Zebulon writhes at the idea of being sprinkled with holy water. Marta’s body recoils upon receiving the drops of holy water released by the exorcist.
Javier and I remain seated. He has a rosary in his hands. Later, on the way back in the car, he tells me that during the two hours of the exorcism he had prayed the Hail Mary and other prayers for Marta, and so that nothing would happen to us.
I remain motionless, trying to go unnoticed. I think that Javier is trying to do the same. Before our very eyes, we are witnessing a “show” of a demon’s power, hatred, and fury. I am spooked and frightened. Suddenly, Marta flings a rosary at her mother. Catching it, I keep it with me for the rest of the session.
Throughout the exorcism, it was only once that Marta turned her head slightly to face us with the whites of her eyes. We thanked God that she really did not look at us. There seemed to be a barrier between us. It was delicate, transparent, and fragile, and seemed ready to break at any moment. Fortunately, she did not look at us directly for over two hours.
The exorcist continues. Then, Fr. Fortea leaves to take a break and to pray the liturgy of the hours. “Couldn’t he pick a better time to pray?” I ask myself.
“In the name of Jesus, kiss the cross!”
“Aiyee!” screams Zebulon.
Marta’s mother faces the demon head-on and says “I am but a creature but I love the Lord. In His name, kiss the cross!”
“No!” answers Zebulon, who threatens the mother with Marta’s hands, now transformed into talons.
“Don’t you dare hurt me! Get back!” Marta’s talon-like hands continue to threaten Maria.
It was then that a hand is transformed into a hook, ready to pluck out the mother’s eyes, now suffering and forced to serve as a temporary exorcist. “I have told you not to harm this creature of God, in the name of the Archangel Gabriel, of St. George and all the saints.”
Fr. Fortea is quiet as the mother issues this command and continues praying silently, conscious as he is that a mother’s love is one of the most powerful forces in this world. The mother continues to cast imprecations at the demon for what seems like an eternity. She demands that he should stand. After refusing several times, he finally does.
Now that she is seated, the mother demands that the demon bow its head to the image of the Virgin. It is at that moment that Marta’s neck abruptly twists her head incredibly away from the image.
“No!” speaks Satan’s henchman from Marta’s mouth.
The neck contorted and the head turned around, so as not to bow to the image of the Virgin, is a spectacular gesture of contempt. The mother stubbornly insists, while Zebulon still answers defiantly.
But the mother has not given up. Finally, despite convulsions and shrieks, the neck begins to turn and give way until finally allowing the chin to reach the girl’s chest. It is an arduous process, which Zebulon resists and who refuses to reverence the Virgin. Meanwhile, the demoniac refuses to look upon the image, shuts her eyes and turns her head. Maria orders her to open her eyes. She opens her eyes to reveal the whites, in a macabre expression that is more hate-filled than terrifying and thrown like a lance at the Virgin Mary.
The exorcist now comes to the fore and orders the demon, “Kiss the crucifix.”
Now the session seems to have slowed down and neither advances nor retreats. Zebulon, now mute, shows with hand gestures that he wants to write. Fr. Fortea leaves immediately to the sacristy looking for pen and paper. He does not seem to find any just when I was at the point of offering my pen and notebook. Out of fear, and because I am attached to my luxury ink-pen, I desist from giving them to him.
Fortunately, the priest finds the tools for writing. The mother places a bloc of paper on the girl’s belly and on top of that a note book. The ball-point does not work and is substituted for a pencil. Marta is now lying face-up with her head laying back while her arm stretches to reach the notebook. In this posture, it is impossible for her to see her own hand in the act of writing. With great speed and, obviously, without looking at the paper, Marta’s hand begins to glide over the notebook. If you felt his presence through his bellowing and coarse voice, seeing Zebulon write will make him seem all the nearer.
Javier and I did not understand what was going on. We could only hear the exorcist’s questions, but we could not see the answers in writing. When the exorcism was over, Fr. Fortea gave the two notebooks to Javier that are now in his possession. Once we got home, we both tried to reconstruct the events. It was then that Javier showed me that the letters did not run into each other: the writing was perfectly clear and even the dot over each letter “i” was done perfectly.
The letters were typical of a printing typeface, not of a manuscript. The oral/written dialogue in which Fr. Fortea asked questions and Zebulon answered by the use of Marta’s hand is as follows:
“Seeing as I had reinforcements, I wanted you to give up.”
With that phrase, Zebulon explains why the exorcism had reached a quietus during the first hour.
“What reinforcements? Who has come?” asks the exorcist.“
Satan.” writes Zebulon, “But he has left now.” And then, without being asked, he says “There is 1 person missing,” and underlines the number 1 several times.
“What person?” asks the priest.
Confronted with this question, the hand drops the pencil and Marta firmly closes her mouth. Zebulon does not wish to answer.
“Give me a sign so that I will know who it is,” insists the priest, but the possessed girl’s lips are sealed.
By this point we are utterly exhausted after almost two hours. We hardly breathed throughout the session and we maintained a state of fear and tension that I had never experienced before in my life. The exorcist continues trying to force Zebulon to kiss the crucifix, acknowledge Christ the King, et cetera, to no avail. It was then that one of the most shocking events occurred. When the priest changed his position, he inadvertently knocked over the container of holy water and spilled all over the chapel. I hear a cackle of laughter and hatred from the next world. Zebulon is savoring Fr. Fortea’s mistake. It makes me shudder.
I am impressed when the exorcist does not seem to notice this. It does not seem to bother him in the least. Everything seems normal, but I feel ready to climb the walls. It is then that the priest decides to give Holy Communion to the demoniac. He places on his stole, goes to the tabernacle, and returns to stand at the feet of the demoniac. He takes the sacred Host and lifts it on high. The possessed girl’s face changes to one of abject horror and begins to drag herself as far away as possible from the priest. Face up, she writhes and wriggles like a reptile. Then in the name of Christ, present in the Host, the priest orders the demon to kneel and says “At the name of Christ, every knee must bend.” Zebulon/Marta, after some resistance, kneels. Javier and I, ever since the tabernacle had been open, were on our knees and would stay there until the ciborium was returned to its place.
“After all is said and done, we should be grateful to you,” says Fr. Fortea. “Thanks to you, many will come to believe in the existence of demons. Don’t you realize that you too are serving God?”
“Nooo!” Zebulon shouts freely.
“Look upon your Savior and your King!” orders the priest while holding the Host in his hand.
The demon’s guttural howling becomes even louder. “Arggh, nooo!”
Father Fortea insists and, after several refusals, Zebulon must obey and opens the girl’s mouth.
The Host remains on Marta’s tongue, while her mouth will remain open for several minutes. She does not swallow the Host. Meanwhile, Zebulon howls and Marta’s body shakes convulsively. Javier and I are both afraid that Zebulon would expel the Host from the girl’s mouth.
However, by this point in the exorcism the demon is worn out. It cannot but obey the priest’s commands. In a few minutes, after orders from the priest and the mother to swallow, the Host finally enters Marta’s body.
It was then that she was racked by the worst spasms of the entire session. There were shrieks, howls, bellowing, spasms and convulsions involving the whole body. There were several minutes of extreme tension. I did not know where to go. Just the memory of these events causes me to panic. Fr. Fortea remains unmoved. The demon spews forth unintelligible words. It is not Spanish, nor is the Latin used for a number of the exhortations during the exorcism. At the end, I ask the priest a question who answers “I can’t say anything now, I’ll tell you later.” I do not understand the answer. In reality, I don’t understand anything.
The exorcist does not understand the language used by Zebulon. This malignant spirit repeats a strange expression insistently. The exorcist believes that these words may actually have some meaning. It is indeed a strange language.
Almost at the end of the session, the priest remembers the writing on the paper, “There is 1 person missing.” The priest supposes that it is a third witness, and orders the reveal the witness’s identity. It is useless, so the priest orders the demon to kiss the tabernacle as a “punishment”. Marta stands up with help from the exorcist and her mother. Walking towards the tabernacle, they stop before ancient statue of the Virgin Mary.
“Kiss the feet that will one day crush your head,” orders Fr. Fortea. The demoniac then emits sounds of repugnance and disgust while in front of the statue, the sounds that she had made throughout the exorcism or when confronted with the print of Our Lady of Fatima, but finally kisses its feet. Javier and I remain rooted in place while the exorcist and the possessed girl walk towards the tabernacle. After the priest’s insistent demands, Zebulon pronounces a name very clearly for the priest that for me is indistinct although I am but fifteen feet away. It seems that this is a person who is known to them who can fulfill the goal verbalized in previous sessions “So that they will know” that demons live.
The exorcist is happy to know the name since it is someone that he had earlier thought to invite to the session. Although the demon remains, the priest decides to end the session. He places Marta on the mattress and does nothing more. He merely gathers together his “materials”: the holy water, breviary, Bible, crucifix, and rosary. Suddenly, Marta returns and is no longer in crisis. Once again, we see her eyes and her timid smile. She does not remember anything. She merely has the sensation that she has had a nightmare, but remembers nothing else.
She cannot explain how she came to be in “crisis”. I ask her if it is like being anaesthetized for a surgical operation, but she says no. I still don’t understand. She knew that certain “things” were going to happen. Before the session, she carefully removed her earrings and shoes. She “religiously” laid herself down on the mattress and submitted herself to “treatment” by the priest.
Even more surprising is that Marta is in God’s grace and goes every Sunday to the Eucharist. How is it possible that both the devil and sanctifying grace can inhabit the same person simultaneously? I still have no answer. I have no answers to many things. I only know what you are reading, which I saw with my cynical and unbelieving eyes. So that you will know that Satan lives?
I know nothing of psychiatry or theology. I am simply bearing witness to what I saw as a reporter, and I can assure you that this story is true. I hope for the best for my readers, Marta and her mother, and all the other witnesses to what happened in that chapel. So be it.
Rev. Jose Antonio Fortea has written several novels and scholarly tomes. His bilingual website provides information about exorcism. His book "Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider's Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance" is available in English.