Toledo gets visit from ‘The Exorcist’

Larson holds ‘Spiritual Freedom Conference’

“You people are too uptight. Relax! It’s just an exorcism,” says the Rev. Bob Larson, stalking the crowd at the Clarion Westgate Hotel ballroom in Toledo in search of demons.

The Denver minister known as The Exorcist walks around the room, microphone in hand, eyeing individuals in the crowd of 150, his spiritual antenna tuning in to unseen forces.

“So, are you ready? Have you put up enough with the devil?,” he asks the crowd attending his Spiritual Freedom Conference, held Tuesday night. “Not everyone spits green pea soup and has their head rotate 360 degrees. But everybody needs deliverance.”

He tells the crowd to think about “the worst thing that ever happened in your life. Relive it. Express your emotion. Your shame. Anger. Whatever it is.”

“You’re in a safe place tonight,” he says. “In most churches, this is a blind spot. They would not just feel uncomfortable, they would not know how to handle this. I’ve done this before, with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.

“I’m really a very nice guy. I just don’t like the devil,” he says, still gazing intently around the room.

Mr. Larson, steely eyed with a red beard and slicked-back red hair, rolls up the sleeves of his burgundy shirt embroidered with his slogan, “DWJD: Do What Jesus Did.”

He holds up a photo of his wife and three young daughters. “I’m here for them,” he says. “I don’t like the way the world is. I’m sick of rapists and murderers and drug dealers walking the streets. I’m doing my part to stop it.”

He continues to pace.

“Satan, you don’t have anything in this place!” he says with a shout. “I come against you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.”

He stops and turns to his assistants. “Hand me my Bible. Where’s my anointing oil?”

Mr. Larson slips into the middle of a row and touches his brown-leather Bible to the head of Doug Sample. He says a quick prayer and Mr. Sample starts crying.

“It doesn’t mean you’ve got a demon,” Mr. Larson tells the crowd. “Maybe you just have pain that needs to be healed.”

He calls a woman to the front. She identifies herself as Bobbie Beight, 38, of Amherst, Ohio. Four years ago, she says, Mr. Larson cast murderous demons out of her at a conference in Cleveland.

“It took six full-grown men to hold me down,” says Bobbie, who weighs 130 pounds. “I wanted to hurt Bob. I tried to kick him in a place where a man does not want to be kicked.”

She was depressed, angry, wore black all the time, and was taking mood-altering drugs. Wearing a lavender sweater, she says her life has been transformed. “Bob did for me what $20,000 and years of psychiatric counseling and Prozac could not do.”

Mr. Larson paces and stops in front of a woman sitting in an aisle seat, stares down at her, and begins speaking to an unseen spirit.

“Look at me!” Mr. Larson says forcefully. He holds his Bible in front of her and makes a sign of the cross in the air. “You can’t hide anymore! Today you will face the judgment of God!”

The woman begins to cry softly. Mr. Larson holds the microphone in front of her and heavy, forced breathing comes through the speakers.

Mr. Larson shouts: “In the name of the living God, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I command you to LET … HER … GO!”

The woman trembles in her seat but stares down at the flowery carpet.

“He’s scared to look at me,” Mr. Larson says. “It’s not because of me, it’s because Christ is in me. He doesn’t want to look at Christ.”

He tells the crowd that he can’t help them if they don’t want to be helped. “People get the idea that the Exorcist is supposed to do it. No. You’re supposed to do it. I’m the facilitator. There’s a lot of stuff in this room, but you’re not letting go of it.”

He asks the woman in the aisle seat what the worst thing that ever happened to her was. She says her father committed suicide and shot her mother in 1987. “Aw, bless your heart,” Mr. Larson says gently, and gives her a hug.

The Exorcist asks about her heritage and she says her parents were Mexican and Texan.

Bob Larson

Bob Larson is known as a sensationalistic and (deservedly) controversial “evangelist,” known for attacking rock music, alleged demons, wallets and critics (real or perceived).

Statements made by Bob Larson should not be considered representative of mainstream Christian beliefs and/or practices.

“Have you ever broken the Aztec curse?” he asks her. “No wonder your family has blood on it. There’s a death curse hanging over your family. We are going to stop it. We are going to break the curse of depression and suicide tonight.”

He begins praying loudly, commanding the devil to leave, and then calls another family member forward.

Mishael Dempsey, 29, says she tried to commit suicide when she was 12 and prayed to the devil, quoting a Led Zeppelin lyric about “sweet Satan.” She says she’s had anger problems ever since her parents divorced when she was a child, and she yells at others and hurts herself for no apparent reason, cutting and pulling her skin off.

Mr. Larson prays with Ms. Dempsey for repentance, then tries to get her to vent her anger. That’s how he gets the demon to show itself so that he can cast it out, he says. Ms. Dempsey just quietly, fighting back tears.

“Oh, so you scream and curse at everyone else until the Exorcist shows up, and then you’re the nice church lady,” Mr. Larson says. “Feel the rage. Feel the anger. Let it go!”

He says he won’t push too hard, and leaves her alone while he prays for others. Ten minutes later, he returns to Ms. Dempsey.

He takes her hands and places them around his throat, then speaks to the demon: “How many times in the pit did you want to choke the life out of me? Now’s your chance. Go ahead, choke me!”

Ms. Dempsey just stares at him, then starts growling. Her voice is low, deep-pitched. The growling intensifies. Mr. Larson places his Bible against her stomach and gets eye-to-eye with her.

“Satan, you want to choke me. But you don’t have the guts. You want to laugh at me. You want to yell at me. But you,” he says, now speaking to Ms. Dempsey, “you’re in the way.”

Ms. Dempsey’s body starts shaking, her growling gets louder and more guttural.

“Jesus, fill her with the Holy Spirit!” Mr. Larson shouts.

Ms. Dempsey collapses to her knees, sobbing.

“She is going to need more help, but this was a great step,” Mr. Larson says. “Her feelings and emotions have built up over the years. But we finally kicked the door down.”

Three hours after the start of the service, Mr. Larson says it’s time to wrap things up. He invites everyone who wants help to come forward so he and the staff of Oasis Christian Fellowship can pray for them.

Ms. Dempsey says she feels weak from the spiritual battle, but relieved.

“I felt like it wasn’t my own voice when I was talking,” she says. “Now I feel like a giant weight is gone. I knew there were demons, but I didn’t know they were inside me. I thought they were around me. But I felt them leave.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Toledo Blade, USA
Feb. 11, 2006
David Yonke, Religion Editor

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 16, 2006.
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