Thursday, September 8, 2016

Did "Satan" Visit Loyola University Women's Dorm Back In 1968?

If you've been around long enough you eventually have been exposed to all manner of malarkey. One of these concerns an alleged visitation from  "Satan" at one of Loyola University's dorms (Buddig Hall)  in 1968.  According to 1974 reports from the Loyola Maroon, two Loyola University (New Orleans) coeds were confronted with a series of bizarre happenings long before “The Exorcist” focused attention on the horrors of demonic influence.

The incident was evidently so terrifying that a priest was called to perform "a minor exorcism" on an eighth floor suite in Buddig Hall, the female dorm.  Note that barely two months earlier, Linda - a gf from Miami visiting for Mardi Gras - stayed in the same dorm on the same floor. She lived in a Buddig suite with two LU students for just over a week and reported nothing unusual although on one occasion she told me she did see a trio of giggling coeds with a Ouija board. As it turns out, the device  (or another like it) figured prominently in what transpired, or rather - what two coeds in Buddig reported had transpired

According to the Maroon account:

"The principals in these strange events were two 18-year-old freshmen, Marie Price Stevens and her roommate, Brenda (who asked that her last name be withheld). Witnesses to these events were Janet Jones and Dorothea Brennan, who occupied the adjoining room, 812.

Janet Jones begins the story: 'It was Brenda, Marie and I who first began playing with the Ouija board. Dorothea didn’t believe in it, and it refused to cooperate with her. It would spell out that it was an evil spirit, and three or four times, it asked us to put Marie on. When she got on, it said it wanted to possess her. And then we began to be afraid.' "

Okay, first, let's try to clear our heads and enlist the services of logic and reason. Why would any "evil spirit" seeking to successfully possess a person actually admit that it was an "evil spirit"? This is nonsense. A genuine entity as so claimed would conceal its true intent and instead portray itself as benign, even friendly. This is the first inkling of bare bollocks.

That inkling is then magnified into a pretty clear case of tomfoolery when said spirit declares - or is said to declare "it wanted to possess her". Again, no entity worth its salt would telegraph such intentions  or desires- knowing this would inspire fear and render its task more difficult.  By this stage anyone hearing this balderdash ought to have smelled a rat, but let's  continue with the Maroon's account:

"Marie Stevens continues: 'Then we communicated with a woman named Hazel. She said she was a Creole from New Orleans whose husband died in prison for a crime she committed. One day, while playing in Neil’s room (a student who lived in Biever Hall), Hazel came to us. Neil laughed at her once and she spelled ‘Cut stomach. Kill Neil.’ The next morning, Neil had stomach cramps in the cafeteria and collapsed on the way out. We rushed him to the hospital and were told he had acute appendicitis.”

So what? When I was at Loyola (1964-67) there were no fewer than four cases of appendicitis in Biever Hall. It isn't very pleasant but it happens. After all, the vermiform appendix is a vulnerable organ. Once again we behold the  post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. That is,  assuming a causal relationship from a merely sequential one. Event Y (in this case Neil's stomach cramps- acute appendicitis) followed Event X ("Hazel" saying "Kill Neil") therefore Event Y must have been caused by Event X.    But there is absolutely no reason to believe this was anything other than coincidence, and indeed  it may not even meet that threshold since "Hazel" is likely a figment of the coed's Ouija imaginings. (I admit I also dabbled in Ouija boards with college friends in the 1960s but at no time was there ever a case of "possession".  There was an incident when a somewhat drunken coed barfed on the board - hitting the planchette with her vomit, moving it -  after one too many bourbon and cokes!)

The Maroon account ends:
Finally, Hazel disappeared and ‘Satan’ appeared to us. We asked it to prove it was Satan, and it said it would appear in a blue flame over Brenda’s head. We turned out the lights, and Janet and I saw only the shape of Brenda’s head. On her face were blue features: blue eyes, nose, and mouth. Soon after, Dorothea called a priest. Fr. Cohen said the possibility existed that we were in contact with Satan. And if we were, he didn’t know what would happen.  Then at 2 a.m. several weeks later, Brenda and I were dozing off when we heard noises. The objects on the shelves above our beds were moving back and forth. Suddenly the big poster tacked to the right of the window flew at me with tremendous force. I turned on the lights and saw the poster lying on my bed. And the objects on the shelves were rearranged. In hysterics, I called Fr. Cohen (Associate Director of Campus Ministry) at 3:30 in the morning.... we took him to our room, and he performed an exorcism.”

There is so much dense,  illogical codswallop here it's almost like wading through the delirious claims of a climate change denier. She asserts "Hazel  disappeared" and "Satan appeared"  but then confesses she had to ask it to "prove it was Satan".  But why would she call it "Satan" if she needed proof? According to her account the alleged entity set its own proof criterion:  the blue flame "over Brenda's head". But anyone who is the least invested in empirical proof and scientific testing of claims knows damned well you don't let the subject specify conditions for the proof - YOU set the standard and criteria!  If I am testing whether Uri Geller really bends spoons, I don't let him set the proof criteria (e.g. "I will bend this spoon over the TV while you watch it from here") - rather I will demand the standard: e.g. "Ok, chump, here are ten different spoons of differing alloys, I want you to bend all of them at once such that the spoon tips touch the handles!"

Again, the whole incident reeks of tommyrot. The claims of telekinetic events, i.e. a poster flying off the wall etc., don't prove anything sinister other than these girls have wild imaginations.  My then  visiting gf Linda, for example, regaled me more than once with how literal gusts would blow into her suite when one coed or other opened a window, especially at certain times on the 8th floor. She also reported suite mates chasing down posters blown off the walls, as well as knick knacks blown off shelves.  No supernatural forces required!

Another thing,  the claimed  PK events happened "several weeks later"  (i.e. after the "Satan" apparition)  once more a case of post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy.  Two last points: Fr. Harold Cohen, while a decent guy and thoughtful Jesuit, never had any qualification as an Exorcist. Further, any nominal Catholic knows you don't perform a "minor exorcism" on a dorm room, you perform it on a person, a possessed human - or an allegedly possessed one.

It is also interesting that this burst of devil mania occurred not long after Loyola had offered several cycles of Theology courses focused on demoniacs. See e.g. the notes below from one of the courses which I took in Fall of 1964:

 What if lots of kids in those TH 110  classes made copies of the notes and distributed  them around? What if they were a source of curiosity for several years?  What if such notes, combined with Ouija board play, engendered the whole Satanic nonsense that erupted that night in Buddig Hall?  

Finally, let me remind readers that the Catholic Church's ritual of exorcism was founded and promulgated not on the belief that demonic possession was real, but that the afflicted person believed it was real. Thus, the rite of exorcism was initiated as a memetic template to cure the belief in the person's possession, not any objective possession per se. Up to now, indeed, no one has been able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that any demonic possession has ever occurred, never mind absurd fictional portrayals like those in 'The Exorcist', or 'The Rite'.

As for Buddig Hall, remarkably everything settled down very well  in the ensuing years, so maybe Fr. Cohen's suite "exorcism" did work in some obscure way. It got the Buddig residents to believe Cohen's mumbo jumbo had worked so there was no point in using Ouija boards  for recreation anymore anyway!

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