Haunted Histories Volume 3

 

Volume 3 Disc 1
"Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree."

A somewhat interesting but for the most part uneventful look at some of the descendants of Dracula, or rather enemies of Dracula. A family traces their blood line back to Dracula’s half brother, who then became his enemy. They comb through old records, buildings and relics of the past to see what their connection is. Kind of interesting, but not really spellbinding. But seriously, how cool would it be to be related to Dracula? They travel the countryside looking into old churches, find the headstones of their ancestors and perhaps even the tomb of Dracula himself. They even make the trek to visit the actual castle, complete with full moon.

It’s certainly interesting that there is a bloodline dating back to that time period and from a character so well known, but not exactly the chilling tale for late night viewing.

Volume 3 Disc 2
"Exorcism: Driving Out the Devil."

Perhaps the most interesting documentary out of this volume, this disc delves into the practice of exorcism. The first exorcist? That’s right, it’s Jesus. Jesus is noted to have performed upwards of 2 dozen exorcisms, the most famous is on the man of Gerasenes. A poor soul has been cast out of the village to be chained and left for dead. Jesus comes across the man and begins to speak to the evil which lurks inside him. When asked who possesses him, the man replies "We are Legion". Jesus casts out the demons into a nearby herd of swine who then throw themselves off a cliff. And so begins the practice of casting out the demons.

In 1565 the idea of exorcism is used for political and spiritual gain as a 16 year old girl falls victim to an evil spirit who originally revealed himself as the girl’s grandfather. There is a split between the Catholics and the Protestants and they use this possession to prove which faith has more power. Ultimately the Catholics gain an upper hand and even have an exorcism in public so all can witness the power of their faith. Casting out demons becomes big business for the Church and they use it as a tool to gain new members.

In 1614 the Catholic Church begins to write down how to identity and perform an exorcism. The Rituale Romanum is created so there are rules and guidelines to follow. This against proves the power of prayer and that the Catholics know how to root out evil.

During this time period there is evidence to support that possession or being in league with the devil is used as a revenge for unkind acts. A nun who’s affections are shunned by a priest begins to cast accusations that he is in league with the devil and that his presence at her church has caused afflictions. It doesn’t take much to prove someone guilty of working for the devil and quickly the priest is convicted and burned at the stake.

The Salem Witch Trial further the idea of demonic possessions for personal gain. The townspeople feel that the devil is close at hand and that they must keep busy and vigilant lest they be taken over. As we all know, the finger pointing begins, blame is cast in every direction and the idea of exorcising the demon by killing the afflicted becomes common practice. Plenty of land changes hands and more people end in court than ever before. It basically turns into a bloodbath.

Modern times also see the belief in the devil and exorcism. In 1949 a boy is believed to be possessed by the devil after he and his Aunt play with a Ouija board to try and contact his recently deceased mother. Soon he hears noises, feels a presence and welts appear on his body. This case becomes the basis for the movie "The Exorcist". And once the book and the movie hit the mainstream the belief in the devil and possession are renewed.

Exorcism has been used as a cure-all through much of history. If something is wrong with you, exorcising the demons will make you better. You have to admit, it’s a step above blood letting. But is this just covering up mental illness? Are the symptoms of demonic possession and schizophrenia too close to be ignored? Are hearing noises and seeing spirits the results of a failing mind? Does demonic possession put people in the limelight and give them the attention they crave? Is exorcism still being used as quick therapy or do the dark forces really take hold of innocent victims?

A pretty interesting documentary with lots of information.

Volume 3 Disc 3
"Witch Hunt"

More information on the infamous Salem Witch Trials. We are presented with the main characters and many explanations as to why the hysteria was spreading, from evil sprits to ergot poisoning. People of the time were so fearful of the devil that when doctors couldn’t come up with any other diagnosis to explain an ailment they were said to be bewitched. Considering the rather primitive treatments and lack of medical understanding of the time, bewitchment was prescribed on a regular basis.

But what really got things going in Salem? What was the spark that ignited it all? Was it the power hungry judges? The lawmakers trying to make a name for themselves? Ill tempered residents who were looking to get revenge against their neighbors? Misbehaving kids looking to relieve some of the boredom and drudgery of their lives?

Yes it was. It all comes to a head when Tituba, the slave of Rev. Parris is found working "magic" right in his own home. After being completely railroaded in court, Tituba says she was visited by a dark figure and says she is in league with several of the townspeople which are already under suspicion. And then the game is on. Blame is leveled at every turn. Accusations fly. Evidence is in short supply. And the body count is on the rise. Exorcising the devil means putting people to death. Satan has a strangle hold on their town and the only way to get rid of him is to kill his agents. Cure a cold by killing the patient.

Quite a bit of this information can be gathered from other sources, but it’s still a good documentary on the hysteria of the time and how the idea of Satan, witchcraft and exorcism go completely out of control and cost the lives of dozens of innocent people.

Volume 3 Disc 4
"Exorcising the Devil."

The word "Exorcism" conjures up the images from the movie, of a young Regan with pasty skin, dark lips and foul mouth as priests gather round to cast the demon out of her body. But is this sort of thing real? Can someone be possessed by evil spirits and if so what can be done to save that soul? There is in fact an exorcism ritual that is part of several different religions from Catholicism to Santeria. The exorcism ritual is still practiced on a regular basis and many people feel the devil or an evil influence has control over them. Some churches have exorcism rituals on a weekly basis, in front of the whole congregation.

What we get is a broad summary of exorcism and how it is used. Exorcism can be traced back to the time of Jesus and his work to free several souls which he feels are being tortured by the devil. There is also mention of the case in 1949 which became the focus of the movie "The Exorcist" as well as a young man who feels he is possessed by multiple evil spirits.

Many decades ago exorcisms were common place and even done in public. While the practice of the exorcism didn’t appear during the Salem Witch Trials, the idea of a devil, evil sprits and even possession were certainly at work. When odd behavior presented itself it was almost immediately considered the work of the devil.

Exorcism is still close at hand and is used to heal when other methods seem to fail. Just tune into an episode of Paranormal State and you’ll be witness to an exorcism of the demonic. And Hollywood capitalizes on the idea each year with movies that show the nature of evil or dark forces that drive people to do the devil’s work.

Participating in the discussion are several priests who have either performed or been part of the exorcism ritual, including one of the priests who was part of the 1949 case. We also get commentary from those in the medical field who believe that demonic possession can be explained through mental illness or other mental/emotional disease. Many feel that demonic episodes can be the result of emotional trauma or even sexual abuse.

While it may be easy to discount the original uses of exorcism and the quick prescription of the devil for when things go wrong or feeling melancholy, what about today? Is the devil a prevalent force that can take over a body and spirit and make it act out? There is little doubt that we have people who act in a bad way and cause harm to others, but is this the work of the devil and someone possessed or at least working under his influence? Or is this untreated mental illness coming to the surface? Does the exorcism actually rid someone of evil spirits or is it merely a "clean start" so to speak to get them to change their behaviors?

Volume 3 Disc 5
"Voodoo Secrets."

The notion of voodoo brings to mind curses, spells and blood sacrifice. And while some of that does play a part in voodoo, many popularly held beliefs about the religion have come from sensationalized books and accounts that really have no basis in the actual religion. Through this documentary we are shown what parts really make up voodoo and what the practices mean. When you peel away the layers many comparisons can be made between the beliefs and practices of this religion and any other religion out there. The sacrifice of the animal is similar to the ritual of Thanksgiving. The use of blood seems similar to communion. And while possession and other aspects seem foreign and unusual they can be compared to other facets where believers try to communicate directly with their God.

Even though voodoo may seem strange its roots go back hundreds if not thousands of years and have tens of millions of followers around the world. While many seek solace and forgiveness in God, the practitioner of voodoo seeks the same spirituality in a variety of gods and has a more tangible connection with the spirit world.

There are several stories about the power of voodoo and how it has been used to defeat armies, to ward off evil, bring prosperity to a village, heal the sick and even influence the legal system. And no, the voodoo doll has nothing to do with voodoo.

Overall this is a much better set than Volume 2 (which I thought was quite bad), with the discs on Exorcism being the most informative and interesting. Still, I think they’re reaching with the use of spine-tingling, but there is a fair bit of entertainment value in this set.

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