‘Teen Exorcists’ is a documentary which was filmed, produced and directed by Dan Murdoch for BBC TV and shown in September. It features three teenage girls; Brynne Larson, daughter of self-styled Arizonan exorcist, Rev Bob Larson, and her two friends who are sisters, Tess and Savannah Sherkenback. These three girls wear high-heels, skin-tight jeans and leather jackets and have long hair which tumbles in curls down their back. With their red lip-stick and mascara, these stars of the show provide sex appeal and glamour to the exorcism road show with choreographed moves, polished poses for the camera and a well-rehearsed, repetitive spiel. With attempts to spark a revival in exorcism, Bob introduced Brynne to exorcisms at the age of 13 at a 3,000 person African event when he needed help to remove a Voodoo curse. Brynne was home schooled (in demonology) and tells viewers that she believes that God created the world in 7 days ‘It’s pretty cool’ she remarks and explains that demons have names like Jezebel and Abaddon and that London is ‘spiritually corrupt’ and one of the most Satanic cities in the world. Thrusting a cross into someone’s face, the girls scream ‘What’s your name?’ ‘I torment you’, and put extraordinary ideas of curses into the heads of vulnerable people. The reporter describes the scene of bullying and resultant screaming as ‘harrowing’. On a visit to the Ukraine, the group top the bill at a bible college event where 2,000 people gathered to see the spectacle.
In the UK, their East London promotion picked up a couple of youngsters on the street, Goth-like Joe and his girl-friend, Shannon. 17 year old Joe is wearing a necklace with a pentagram and goat’s head and admits he made an ouija board and has heard voices in his head. “My mum’s friend had a ouija board, they did it all the time and their house was haunted and they always had bad experiences’ says his girlfriend. Joe. This is not challengeable evidence for demonic activity! 30 year old Emma, a Christian from Salisbury is filmed washing her fringe in preparation to visit the exorcists for a one-to-one consultation to remove a curse from her life. She tells us that she was given a pie by a male stranger who said he learnt black magic in India and didn’t want to go to hell. The pie gave her burning pain in her legs and back, her skin smelt like rotting flesh, she heard loud voices and blackbirds were following her. Her friends and family think she is mad. She is instructed to fill in a questionnaire which excludes psychiatric illness (though her symptoms appear to be psychotic). Beth from Exeter lost her job and sleeps all day; her daughter is collected from school by her grandmother. She has seen the exorcisms on youtube. These two less than perfect examples of demonic possession came to London for the exorcism treatment. At the show, the screaming and shouting begins until all parties are exhausted. Beth is the first to flip loudly and hysterically and makes noises like a screeching cat. This causes the exorcist to bang a thick book on her head to much applause and statutory exorcism spiel. “I can frighten you Satan!’, ‘I bet you had her for a long time!’ ’I ask God to torment you for what you put her through!’ etc., etc. “I felt something at the back of me which came forward to the front!’ she exclaims as she describes feeling lighter and a different person after the show. Emma felt let down because she felt nothing. Joe who believes in evolution and is not religious, throws away his necklace and breaks up the board. “It’s so extreme’ detects Shannon who makes another perceptive remark ‘She’s a good actor!’ and we see the teenage girls high on adrenaline, laughing and giggling after the show.
Then to 1,000 year old Waltham Abbey church where, according to the exorcists, the Victorian ceiling is evidence of Satan! I doubt if the Rector was notified that the BBC were filming in his church as he would have made an intelligent comment, the first of the programme bar Shannon’s. Alas, a rather dotty elderly church helper appeared before the BBC cameras to pose with his arms around the girls sycophantically saying, ‘I’d be worried if they were my daughters!’
Walking along Sun Street in Waltham Abbey, the team came across ‘Spirit of Isis’, a holistic centre owned by Maria Savva that provides yoga classes, counselling services, pampering days with massage and other enjoyments, reflexology, Reiki healing and mediumship events which raise money for charities and has rooms for hire. Their attention was drawn to a poster offering a group for teenagers to develop their mediumship abilities. The shop has a statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis in the window. “That’s Jezebel!” they sneered. Oh! My gosh, an evening of clairvoyance!’ However, Spiritualism is an official religion in the UK, it is legal and Spirit of Isis pays their taxes and provide interesting, helpful and enjoyable services. Maria was angry that her shop was targeted, without asking her for a balanced comment or at least being polite enough to enter the shop to make their presence known and to inform that filming took place which would appear on BBC TV.
Even though the dialogue was almost inaudible throughout and the filming of the exorcisms were shortened to a few sentences so we did not see all of the procedure, Dan Murdoch would have been paid handsomely by the BBC for this documentary that spanned three countries over a six month period and was aired five times after the 9pm watershed. Bob Larson sells books, DVDs, CD, and a cross for $100 and also has skype interviews for a fee. Private appointments are £200. Meanwhile, several people are left feeling embarrassed and one person has lost business on account of this very slanted programme. We live in a free country, and can hold whichever opinions we wish to hold, providing we do not break the law. Article by Wendy Stokes www.wendystokes.co.uk