Dorothy Chisom believes in demons.  She talks about them easily, in passing, in the same way that many people discuss the weather. This isn’t too surprising, because the majority of individuals I know from West Texas believe in demons, too.  What’s funny is that I didn’t meet Dorothy in Texas.  We met while studying abroad our Freshman year summer at Oxford in England.  We were drinking together that night at the Butlery and Dorothy was talking about the Seven Deadly Sins that sit along the Bell tower of New College. 

“They call them Gargoyles, but its just another fancy way of saying demons,” Dorothy said. 

Dorothy decided that if the intelligentsia of Oxford believed in demons, this belief added credibility to their universal existence, even if the belief was something founded five hundred years ago.  Those faces, the deadly sins, were still set in stone.  Dorothy said it was her favorite lesson learned at Oxford.  It helped to justify her own beliefs learned early on in the battles between good and evil.  Just like Lewis Carol, and “the Jabberwock,” and Tolken’s battles between Middle Earth, Dorothy believed similar battles took place on a daily basis.  Most of us were to blind today to see them.

Dorothy’s family and mine started out near Lubbock, or at least our grandparents did.  While my family moved to Austin and Los Angeles, hers expanded across the plains.  Dorothy has one of those big West Texas families, one that spreads out along the dusty flatlands, stretching itself between Lubbock and Odessa, between politics and preachers.  Dorothy liked to tell me then, and still likes to tell me now that I don’t believe in Jesus.  Her statement doesn’t come across so much as accusatory; rather, it seems she’s stating a simple matter of fact.  It’s as if Dorothy’s confirming some sort of distinction she continues to recognize between the two of us.  She examines my faith for me, often concluding, “ Catherine, you’re an Atheist,” even though I’ve told her over and over again that an Agnostic and an Atheist are two very separate things.  What she’s explaining, though, is that in regards to Jesus and demons, God and the Devil, I’m not going to say they don’t exist, but I’m also not ready to say that they do either.


We were having this same old discussion while driving home together one night over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  While traveling back along the desolate stretch from Lubbock to Austin out along Highway 84, Dorothy said she could feel them there, the demons.  I figured that a lot of her feelings stemmed from the highway itself, being that this place was where all those women had been murdered twenty years before.  I asked her if this was the case and Dorothy said no, she thought the demons had come here because Lubbock was a god-fearing town, the first to embrace Bush’s abstinence only policy, that this was a reason the devil had begun his attack.  Dorothy said her cousin had probably just been an early victim.  Lubbock and its surrounding areas now have the highest STD rate in the state and the highest pregnancy problem in the country, which Dorothy explained wasn’t any fault of the people. 

After spending some time in Southeast Asia this last summer, the next comment reminded me of something I’d heard in Cambodia.  My guide in Angkor Wat said the Buddhists believed the karmic vibe there is clean now, one of the cleanest in the world– having endured so much death, the killing fields, which meant the bad energy must make way for the good now.  Dorothy explained to me that the opposite remains true for Lubbock.  Because Lubbock had always been a good, God-fearing town, composed of so much love, it now remained under spiritual attack.

Dorothy began speaking of her own attack back before we’d known each other well.  She explained how she’d lived in Lubbock through high school, and how the demons had made her attack herself then, through self-inflicted cuts, bites, and scratches.  She said that was the only way she could feel pain, after the demons attacked.  Dorothy said once when she’d cut herself too deep, her parents had found her, and taken her to the hospital.  And after months of anti-psychotic drugs and various antidepressants, the voices still spoke to her.  Dorothy said, they’d told her to do things like drive into a lake, or drown herself in tequila.

After another “episode,” her father called a friend of his, a southern Baptist preacher from Arkansas, who told both Dorothy and her father that she was plagued by “alcohol demons.”  Alcohol was one of the devil’s tools that allowed the demons a stronger hold on her psyche; that’s what the preacher told Dorothy, and is what Dorothy told me.  So working together with her Christian therapist and an Evangelical exorcist, the two helped cast out Dorothy’s alcohol demons.  She told me that she actually felt their claws releasing her through the scars in her arms. 

While I didn’t know Dorothy during high school, and never knew about the exorcism before last weekend, I do know she’s been fine since.  She seems to take her spirituality in stride, much like the rest of us talk about diet and exercise.  Maybe she’s the smart one, aware of something the rest of us have lost through a blind spot established by science and logic.  What good things in life are really logical anyway? Not love, not religion, not much I’d place a bet on.  Besides, the elders at Oxford knew the demons well enough back before science took over, well enough to put faces to their names.   Dorothy explained that in the end, it was religion not medicine that saved her, since the demons left her alone after that.  She said she no longer feels the need to cut, nor hears the ‘demon’ voices, and has taken no psychologically based medications, so she’s certain it was the demons.  I never agreed with her on this, but I never disagreed either.