Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Demonologist or dangerous and deluded?

On 13/03/16 the Daily Mirror featured a report  regarding one Kelly Angel, real name Bebbington, who purports to be a "demonologist" and "demon hunter" entitled "Meet the woman who sends demons back to Hell for a living after realising she could see ghosts" Stories such as this are ten a penny as are individuals making such claims, the reason this one caught my attention is the seeming disregard both Kelly and the Mirror seemed to show towards the dangers of propagating the harmful mythology of demons and exorcism.

Before tackling that, it's interesting to note that this isn't the first time the paper has featured Kelly. on October 29th, 2016 they ran a story entitled "'I work in Greggs by day but I'm a demonologist by night'" the title of which alludes to the fact that, at the time Kelly was dividing her time between banishing demons to hell and serving tepid baked bean and sausage slices in down market pastry shops.

The only seeming change in Kelly's story between these articles is the elaboration of her connection to the paranormal before discovering her gift. In October 2014, she states: "I was 19 when I discovered I had The Gift. A medium had told me I was very clever and suggested I got myself a set of tarot cards. It was the first time I'd been to see a medium and I'd only gone along with a friend. I've always been into spooky things so I decided to give it a try."-29th Oct 2014

As of March this year this interest in "spooky things" had become a full-blown ability to see the dead! All of which leads one to question why she needed the medium to tell her about her gift at all. Surely it should have been self-evident to Kelly?
"I was “taken” into demonology. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been interested in the world of spirits. I’ve always been able to see ghosts, but it wasn’t until I visited a medium when I was 19 that I realised I had this special ability."
That doesn't make much sense to me. There are likely to factors at play here: Most people who claim to have this kind of abilities tend to add new elements to the origin stories of their "powers" as time goes on. Kelly has probably ran through the tale so many times that she's failed to see her embellishments have resulted in a story that no longer makes sense. Another possibility is that the ever ethical journos at the Mirror have dragged the ghost element out of Kelly in order to enhance the "click-bait" strength of the piece.

In the article Kelly expresses her frustration in the article at those that don't realize she is a demonologist not an exorcist, the difference being, she says: exorcists remove demons from INSIDE people, whilst she removes demon attached to people's outsides!

So far so what... I'm sure you're are thinking Kelly sounds like something of a harmless crank. The first hint of irresponsibility from Kelly comes when she boasts of her lack of training:

"I didn’t need to read up on the subject, be trained or learn anything. I knew how it all worked because 80 per cent of my past lives have been connected to spiritual work, I have been a Satanist, and into Devil worship, which is how I got to know how Satan works and how the demons serve him. Because of that, I can now deal with them in my present life."

Perhaps this is the major difference between her and an exorcist for the Catholic Church, presumably, despite it being two forms of the same bullshit, they are at least trained! Kelly claims to have despatched with this thanks to experience in her "past lives". Imagine a doctor making such claims, unlikely you'd lie down on the operating table. It also separates Kelly from most so-called demonologists, who protest the title is more than just self-appointed. Kelly seems almost proud of this point.

Another major difference between Kelly and the Catholic Church, the latter have a strict selection process, not everyone who requests an exorcism is granted one. Kelly, on the other hand, sees demons and negative energy almost everywhere:
""I’d say nine out of ten houses are inhabited by bad energy, so I get a lot of work! And usually, once I start working on the person’s house, I can sense if the inhabitants have demons attached to them too...They usually do, as the bad energy sticks to people. It’s rarely just a building that is affected."
This reminds me of a quote Joe Nickell once made about Ed Warren which I'll paraphrase, like Ed, Kelly has probably never walked into a house she didn't think was haunted. But unlike Ed, she thinks the owners are likewise afflicted too.

All this leads to the same concerns I have with many paranormal groups, Kelly really doesn't seem to have considered the psychological effect of telling a believer, someone who is possibly quite afraid of such things, that they are literally surrounded by demons.

""It can manifest in several different ways," explains Kelly. "Many people feel tired and depressed – suicidal even."
The fact that Kelly makes above statement about the people she "helps" only makes it more damning that she has seemingly never considered the damage her bullshit could inflict in these people's lives. Kelly should not be dealing with people she feels are suicidal. She should be ensuring they get the correct help. There's nothing more disturbing than when people such as Kelly can't pull themselves out of the "paranormal hero" narrative long enough to see what might be harmless fantasy to her, could have serious ramifications for others with mental health issues that she interacts with.

Of course, Kelly spends a fair proportion of the article talking about the negative effects of her "work" on her:
"This is the scary bit because they then try to attach themselves to me. But I’m usually OK because I protect myself, using the help of my guides and various angels, well in advance.... I can get really sick and actually vomit. Once, I was violently sick for two hours. It’s caused by all the negative energy the demons hurl at me. Sometimes after a session I sleep for 24 hours; other times, I get insomnia and can’t sleep for days. If I do five or six clearances in a day, it’s pretty exhausting and I feel drained."
This focus on Kelly's problems in battling demons, I'm sure in her mind, mark her out as a self-sacrificing hero, but when I consider the plight of children killed during exorcisms all over the world, she seems naive and thoughtless.

And what about the journalists at the Mirror, why isn't someone at that paper putting two and two together. On February 26th, 2016 the same paper reported on the murder during exorcism of a baby boy by his mother, Irene Mbithe, who believed he was possessed by demons. Two weeks was all it took for the paper's editor to forget the terrible conotations of the last "demon" story they ran. The potential causal link was lost. Do the staff at the Mirror believe that the perpetuation of the demon/exorcism myth isn't connected to that death because it occurred in Nairobi? This sort of thing is happening increasingly in the west too, and the media have to consider responsibility.The propagation of ignorance, superstition and fear knows no geographical or cultural boundaries. I doubt that the staff at the Mirror believe demons exist, they are still feeding that dangerous belief to the vulnerable, susceptible and the mentally ill.

Kelly may be deluded and thoughtless, perpetuating this rubbish from a need for attention or self-worth. The Staff at the Mirror are positively callous. They perpetuate this horseshit for greed and advertising revenue.