Bob Larson said he has lived brutal scenes similar to those from the movie “The Exorcist” more than 10,000 times during the past 30 years.
Larson is an evangelical minister and founder and pastor of the Spiritual Freedom Church in Denver. He and other pastors perform exorcisms for people of all faiths in a $1.2 million north Scottsdale facility he opened in May.
“I’ve been spat upon, kicked, gouged, assaulted and vilified,” Larson said Tuesday afternoon during a conversation with him and fellow pastors Scott Butcon, Gregg Daniel and David Miller. “To do what I do constantly puts me in harm’s way.”
Larson’s simple definition of exorcism is the expulsion of a demon from an individual. Larson has written 30 books on exorcism, cults and spirituality. For more than 20 years, he hosted a syndicated radio show. He has a 5-minute daily Internet commentary at www. boblarson.org.
While Larson claims he’s one of the few people in Scottsdale doing exorcisms, at least publicly, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has an official exorcist. Diocesan spokesman Jim Dwyer said the priest doesn’t do interviews.
Larson realizes that although he has performed exorcisms around the world, some people think he’s merely a showman or a phony seeking donations. Larson dismisses those notions.
“This is real. It’s not some sort of gimmick I came across a few months ago,” said Larson, 62. “I did this privately for 20 years. It’s a normal part of what Jesus Christ did and taught his disciples to do.”
Kevin Childrey of Tempe received an exorcism at Larson’s church. Childrey called the experience “amazing.” He said he began sweating from head to toe as ministers prayed over him.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Childrey said. “The demon spirits started coming out. It was a spirit of hatred and anger. I found I had demons and curses for generations. I wasn’t sleeping well but I am now.”
Larson said he performs exorcisms at seminars and during various events in Scottsdale listed on his Web site,
www.spiritualfreedomchurch.org/html/phoenix__az.html. He said while he’s speaking during seminars, he provokes the devil to come forward. Larson described the reaction of many people during an exorcism as somewhat violent, including having them fall on the floor, move uncontrollably or “going berserk.”
“I see it in (someone’s) eyes,” Larson said. “The demon looks at me. I’ve learned to recognize what it looks like. (At a ministry) when I see it, I go to a person. It’s a look that once you see it, you never forget it. It comes from another realm; an incredibly evil look, The eyes narrow and there’s darkness.”
Larson said funding for his Scottsdale church comes from his worldwide ministry and people he calls Do What Jesus Did Spiritual Team members. The minimum annual commitment to the team is $199 per person. Nonmembers are asked to give $20 for exorcisms.
Larson claims he has performed exorcisms on some famous people, but won’t identify them. He said he has met, but not necessarily performed an exorcism on, many interesting people. The walls of his Scottsdale office are adorned with photos of his family and those of him with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, talkshow host Larry King and former Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., among others.
Larson said the key to exorcism is one’s faith in God. Without it, Larson said someone can’t experience what he calls deliverance.
“There is a need for spiritual confession,” Larson said. “Exorcism is not everybody’s answer. Not everyone has demons. This is about a person’s relationship with God, not about me. I have enough on my plate with three kids.”