Friday, September 23, 2016

Uncle Sam's Secret Sorcerers: Exorcised

The Exorcist is suddenly everywhere these days: there's even now a theme-park attraction and FOX TV series based on the film. The Exorcist's new star expressed her hopes for new show on NBC's Today:

Geena Davis on ‘Exorcist’ TV series reboot: We want it to be as ‘life-scarring’ as original 
Geena Davis, who stars in the new television series reboot of the classic horror film “The Exorcist,” tells TODAY that the original movie was “life-scarring, and we’re trying to do that to a new generation.” She says she doesn’t have trouble sleeping after working on the show because “we’re just trying to make it so YOU can’t sleep.” 

What an interesting choice of words. What exactly does that mean? What exactly do the producers intend to achieve here?

"Life-scarring", she says. A slip of the tongue? Hyperbole? Or a mission statement? 

The trailer isn't given much away. It looks like more Hollywood folk-demonology with a heavy dose of telegenic Catholic ritualism. But that's been a proven audience-repellent in the past. What exactly do they hope to achieve this time?

"Life-scarring." Huh.

The Exorcist joins Lucifer, FOX's buddy-cop mangling of the Vertigo Comics series (yes, I said buddy-cop), based in Neil Gaiman's Endless Universe, as an apparent anchor for a newly Satan-centric fall lineup.

Lucifer is based in Neil Gaiman's Endless Universe, unlike his Books of Magic series, which Harry Potter bears absolutely no resemblance to at all, so don't bring it up again.* 

Based on the video taken there I can't exactly say the Exorcist maze is life-scarring, but the movie doesn't seem so traumatizing in the cold light of day either. Which brings us to our next update...

In the previous installment we looked at the Exorcist phenomenon, and the extraordinary reactions to the film during its initial theatrical release. This is no small thing- it was a major news story at the time and papers and reports have since been written studying the film and its effects.

What many academics may overlook is William Peter Blatty's work as a Psychological Warfare expert for the military, and his subsequent work as a propagandist for the USIA.

Remember that the film was released during a very troubled time; the US was losing the war in Southeast Asia (which had spread to Cambodia and Laos), wars between Israel and its neighbors triggered an oil price war that caused major gasoline shortages in the US, the country was on the verge of a constitutional crisis as a result of the Watergate scandal and the peace and love vibes of the Sixties had darkened considerably as the drugs got cheaper and nastier.

Many planners in the Pentagon felt the question of a hot war with Russia or China was a question of when, not if. 

Given the fact that far worse human experimentation took place in far more placid times, it's not hard to conceive of a blockbuster film being used to roadtest some of the latest silent weapons for quiet wars. 

The range of effects that The Exorcist seemed to produce in its initial run sound very much like the result of sonic weaponry, in this case the use of infrasound.

From an article entitled 'The psychoacoustic effect of infrasonic, sonic and ultrasonic frequencies within non-lethal military warfare techniques':

The term ‘infrasound’ defines itself as the inaudible frequency range below the human bandwidth of around 20Hz...Beyond the use of infrasound detection, this frequency range, of which is inaudible to us, has been researched throughout the decades to investigate it’s effects on the human body. One of which is it’s application to military usage.

Throughout the 20th and 21st century, there has been a vast amount of research collected and interest gained in the use of non-lethal weapons (NLW), which are intended to immobilise or impair targets without causing permanent or severe damage to the human body.
As technologies have developed, it’s apparent that military bodies within the world seek to create weapons resulting in “war’s without death” (Scott & Monitor, 2010). 
And the effects of these weapons seem to sync up quite nicely with the symptoms many viewers of The Exorcist complained of during its first release:
Exposure to levels above 80db between 0.5Hz and 10Hz causing these possible vibrational movements within the ear’s functions, are said to cause psychological changes such as fear, sorrow, depression, anxiety, nausea, chest pressure and hallucinations (ECRIP, 2008). 
It is the result of this effect in the middle ear, that (Goodman, 2010 p. 18) cites as being discovered by military personnel during World War 1 and World War 2.
When dealing with topics like MKULTRA and MKOFTEN it truly is a question of the Blind Men and the Elephant, seeing that so much of the original documentation was destroyed.

But given the fact that The Exorcist was released in 1973, we have a smoking gun on the field testing of psychoacoustic weapons- and their intended emotional and psychological effects- that very same year. 

The effect of emotional and psychological change as a result of infrasonic exposure can later be found during the second Indochina war. In 1973, The United States deployed the Urban Funk Campaign, a psychoacoustic attack during the war with the intention of altering mental states of their enemies (Goodman, 2010). 
The device utilised both infrasonic and ultrasonic frequencies, which emitted high decibel oscillations from a mounted helicopter onto the Vietnamese ground troops (Toffler, Alvin, & Toffler, 1995).  
Interesting "coincidence", don't you think?

It's interesting to note once again that William Peter Blatty's next major project would be The Ninth Configuration, a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest-type character study set in a military hospital for patients suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The studio would make its own Exorcist sequel in 1977, which would go down in cinematic history as one of the most movies ever made, and certainly the worst sequel ever produced. 

Blatty would write a sequel to The Exorcist titled Legion, which he intended to make into a film with William Friedkin. However, the two fell out over creative differences and Blatty would direct the film, retitled The Exorcist III, himself.

An exorcism scene would be tacked onto the last act of the film at the studio's insistence. The movie wasn't a hit, but would become a cult classic on video.

And strangely enough, Legion/Exorcist III would bring us straight back into the netherworld of MKOFTEN. Allegedly.

In this case, we'd revisit the media sensation around the Zodiac Killer:

In the film Police Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) has been haunted by the death of his friend Father Damien Karras. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the exorcism that claimed the priest’s life, Kinderman’s world is once again shattered when a boy is found decapitated and savagely crucified.  
It’s just the beginning of a nightmare series of bizarre religious murders which bear the hallmarks of the infamous Gemini Killer… who died in the electric chair fifteen years ago. 
In discussing the Zodiac case, I floated the suggestion that perhaps there wasn't a Zodiac Killer, but a team of killers, given that there are so many dedicated researchers convinced that different suspects were each the Zodiac.

In his sequel, Blatty seems to pick up that particular ball and run with it.

Telling tales out of school?

 In LEGION, which picks up 12 years after the events of THE EXORCIST, Kinderman is back. He’s investigating a series of killings that parallel those of the long dead “Gemini” killer who terrorized San Francisco years earlier. 
The only thing is, the recent killings appear to have been committed by several different people, even though the murders all bear remarkably similar markings and patterns…almost as if the perpetrators were demonically possessed by the spirit of the Gemini killer. 
This all leads Kinderman to a mental patient locked up in a secluded wing of a local institution, and a supernatural confrontation twelve years in the making. 
Institutions again. Blatty wrote about them quite a bit. Did he have a lot of experience in them? I've always gotten an MKULTRA vibe out of Ninth Configuration, with its hallucinations and alternate realities, so I can't help but wonder what kind of work Blatty actualy did in the Psychological Warfare unit.

As Legion story goes on, we segue from the Zodiac to the Son of Sam killings, exploring the concepts of demonic possession that David Berkowitz would claim were the animating force in the shootings:

 The Gemini's spiritual "master", who had possessed the girl Regan MacNeil, was furious at being pushed out of the child's body and is exacting its revenge by putting the soul of the Gemini Killer into the body of Father Karras. Each evening, the soul of the Gemini leaves the body of Karras and possesses the elderly people with senile dementia elsewhere in the hospital and uses them to commit the murders.  
Like Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac wasn't a particularly prodigious serial killer but made a major impression on the public through his/their expert manipulation of the news media, a trick that the Son of Sam would pick up on a few years later. 

And claims that the Process Church- or at least a Process spinoff- were involved in the Sam slayings would add a terrifying hint of conspiracy, that much worse was to come.

The Process would resurface in a strange fashion in the New York metropolitan area a few years after the Son of Sam killings, with the so-called Cropsey abductions (and in one case at least, abduction and murder), which would haunt the streets of Staten Island in 1980s. 

As with both the Zodiac and the Son of Sam, Andre Rand, the culprit arrested for the Cropsey crimes- and convicted for two of the abductions- like to write cryptic letters (if you have a Netflix account, do watch the Cropsey documentary), even going so far as to write a collective valentine to the "mothers of Staten Island", filled with unsubtle intimations of early death:
Printed in a meticulous, draftsman-like hand on ruler-drawn lines, Rand, 67, wished a "Happy Mother's Day" to "all the ladies on Staten Island who supported 'prosecutorial vindictiveness' against an innocent person!" 
"Should I become a millionaire, it would be my true nature to grant all of you with each, an envelope full of seeds, to plant and cultivate a rosebush (shrub) that produces roses every season, as a token of my heartfelt forgiveness (year after year), rather than bouquets of rosebuds which blossoms and shortly dies-out," wrote the drifter and one-time handyman. 
"It is only a tiny 'rosebud' -- A flower of God's design; But I cannot unfold the petals with these clumsy hands of mine," Rand wrote. "The secret of unfolding flowers is not know to such as I -- The flower, only the "Spirit of God" opens, in my hands would fade and die.
I get the strong impression that Rand is taunting his readers- particularly law enforcement -with these letters of his, which seem embedded with clues (the random Bible passages especially), perhaps as to where his victims are buried.

I especially get that vibe with the letters he sent to the makers of the Cropsey documentary, and generally get a heavy Zodiac vibe from the guy. 

In a strange twist, a local Catholic mystic would write to police claiming that a sect of the Process Church were involved in the abductions. There would be evidence of cult activity around the area but nothing would emerge publicly as to its connection to the crimes.

However, there would be some evidence emerged that the one victim that had been found may have been moved to her burial site from another location.

By sheer dint of coincidence, Process leader Robert De Grimston had moved to Staten Island in the early 80s and was living there during the Cropsey abductions. 

Staten Island. What a fascinating path that man has traveled. And such bad luck to be in the midst of so much mischief and mayhem.

The Cropsey film is rife with hints of cultic involvement - particularly from law enforcement- but the producers never bother to follow up on them. They seem to be of that mindset that such things are not possible. Media conditioning is a powerful thing.

A particularly horrific hospital for the severely mentally-handicapped, euphemistically named Willowbrook State School, enters the story as well. In fact, it plays a very crucial part in the entire Cropsey drama.

The appallingly-inhuman abuse and neglect at Willowbrook would be exposed by a young and ambitious reporter named Geraldo Rivera. The outrage would lead to major reforms in the entire care system for the severely handicapped.

Patients at Willowbrook would be intentionally injected with the hepatitis virus during human experimentation trials in the 50s and 60s.

Not too long after the Cropsey abductions a new Zodiac Killer would emerge in New York:
As the notorious "Zodiac," Heriberto Seda, a ponytailed Bible quoting oddball, had to kill his victims because, "they were bad. They were evil people". 
He terrorized New York City with two crime sprees -- a short summer ordeal in 1990 and a prolonged one spanning from 1992 to 1993 -- that left three dead and five wounded. 
A consummate media whore, Heriberto picked his moniker from the elusive "Zodiac Killer" who stalked San Francisco between 1966 and 1974 and claimed to have killed more than 37 people. He also sent letters to the police boasting of a demented plot to slaughter people purposefully selected by their astrological sign, one for each of the dozen signs. At first, the police thought it was a hoax. 
On March 8, 1990, he proved them wrong. 
 Then began a reign of terror that lasted for several years, and Seda shot several more victims, selected by their astrological signs. Like the original Zodiac- and like Son of Sam- Seda taunted the press with cryptic letters:
It was not until a letter sent to The New York Post in August of 1994 that these attacks were linked to the "Zodiac" rampage of 1990. At first authorities were dubious that the letter was from the same attacker. However police concluded that it was not a hoax but were unsure if it was written by the same person or someone who knew of the assaults.
What a strange mixture, a killer who combined Biblical moralism and occult symbolism. Now where have I heard about that particular combination before?

Bonus factoid: the program launched to catch the Zodiac was called "Operation Watchdog."


Sync Log Epilog: A couple days after I posted the piece on The Exorcist movie, news came that the Vatican's legendary exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth had passed away at the age of 91.  Amorth, who claimed to have had performed tens of thousands of exorcisms, was very much an old school kind of Catholic:
Modern and popular cultures are permeated with spiritualistic and possibly demonic influences, he proclaimed, pointing to the “Harry Potter" novels by J.K. Rowling. He criticized how in the novels the author falsely makes a distinction between black and white magic (bad and good magic), which “does not exist because magic is always a turn to the devil. By reading ‘Harry Potter,’ a young child will be drawn into magic and from there it is a simple step to Satanism and the Devil,” he said.   
(Amorth) also indicated yoga as a step to Satanism. He reasoned that because it leads to the practice of Hinduism, “and all eastern religions are based on the false belief in reincarnation,” then “practicing yoga is satanic; it leads to evil just like reading ‘Harry Potter.’”