It was summertime in southern California. The year was 1976 and I was nine years of age. My parents put me on a church bus and shipped me off to Camp Cedar Crest for a week. The sights and smells of the forest were wonderful. The camp was located in the mountains of southern California and I was with friends every day. We had lots of activities like hiking, baseball and swimming to keep us busy. There was opportunity for Bible study and songs around the campfire, which was nice.
There was a big, open dining hall where everyone ate together. I remember the tall A-frame ceiling and the rows of tables that were lined up straight. I’ll never forget that someone dared me to sniff pepper. I sneezed about a dozen times or more. Everyone laughed and thought it was funny. I never did that again. I had good fun at the camp and was glad I went.
There was another building that was used for worship and preaching. I remember one night one of my friends was crying after a worship service and said he wanted to be saved. After the service, we walked together to the front of the platform where several people were gathered and some adults talked and prayed with us. My friend and I were relieved after someone shared the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4) and prayed with us.
Camp rules required that I always be with a friend when walking around camp. It was smart because it was easy to get lost if you wandered away. I was with two friends one time and we wandered up a hill just beyond the swimming pool. We climbed on top of two round boulders that were as big as cars. The boulders were leaning against each other, and we sat on one with our feet on the other. As we sat and talked, one of my friends pushed with his legs and noticed that the boulder in front of us moved a little. We looked at each other with big smiles, and all together began to rock that boulder back and forth with our feet until it fell forward. To our surprise, that giant boulder began to roll downhill toward the camp and we looked at each in sheer panic. Fortunately, after rolling several times, the boulder hit a few trees and came to a loud, crashing stop. The trees were made to lean forward in the direction of the camp. As we jumped off the boulder on which we were perched, we heard someone running up the hill and saw a camp counselor headed our way. He came to inspect the sound of the rolling boulder and the crash it made as it hit the trees. We admitted we had pushed the boulder over, but did not intend for it to go as far as it did. We all got in trouble for going outside the camp bounds that day. My punishment consisted of a reprimand and spending thirty minutes at the cabin with my nose pressed into a small circle drawn on a chalkboard. I’ll never forget that rolling boulder or the smell of that chalkboard.
It was not all sunshine and fun for some of the kids at camp that summer. In our cabin there was a boy who kept to himself. I remember he woke one night, trembling and shaking, holding onto the edge of the steel bunk bed as he cried. Many of the kids avoided him, not knowing anything about him. He rarely talked and kept to himself. I think he did his best to hide, hoping to make it through the week unnoticed. I had no way of knowing there was something wrong; something dark. A demon was at work in our cabin.
On the last night of camp everyone was gathered at the amphitheater where we sang songs and watched a movie on a big screen. I think the movie was Herbie Rides Again, which had come out a year or two before. Even though it was summertime, I remember the evenings got cold in the mountains, and I had forgotten to bring my jacket with me. I asked a camp counselor if I could run back to my cabin and grab my sleeping bag. He said yes, but to take a friend or two with me. Two of my friends ran with me as we cut across paths and raced to our cabin. Upon entering the cabin we turned on the light and to our surprise we saw a boy huddled in the corner. It was the same boy who had been having bad dreams during the week and avoiding others. He was sitting in the darkness, crouched in the corner, fearful of something or someone.
I remember telling the boy he was not supposed to be at the cabin alone because everyone was at the amphitheater watching the movie. He just stared at me. My friends and I approached him and he stood up. He moved away from the corner and positioned himself between two of the bunk beds that were against the wall. His eyes kept moving about the room as though some danger was present. He looked afraid and I felt compassion for him. I remember my grandmother praying with me when I was afraid, and without much thought, I asked him if it was alright if we prayed for him. To my surprise, he slowly nodded, and we approached him with arms outstretched toward his shoulders. A look of fear washed over his face as he quickly walked backward. His eyes were darting around and his facial movements quickened as we closed the gap of only a few feet between us. Suddenly, his head bowed and he became calm, eerily calm, with his shoulders limp at his side, standing like a lifeless ragdoll.
We prayed as our hands rested on the boy’s shoulders. We were praying a simple prayer to God as only children can do. Our prayer contained no great theology or eloquent speech. There was only a basic understanding from Scripture that we could call on God the Father in the name of Jesus in a time of need. It was simple faith simply applied. Suddenly the boy in front of us turned violent. He threw up his arms and knocked away our hands. He turned and grabbed hold of the steel frame of the bunk bed and began to rock it back and forth with great strength. He began to throw suitcases at us—the suitcases we’d packed earlier in anticipation of leaving the next morning. Without any thought, I grabbed him by the waist and wrestled him to the ground. His strength was more than I could handle, and my two friends jumped on top of him and helped hold his arms and legs to prevent his violence from causing harm.
It was at that moment he started growling. Deep guttural sounds were coming from him; sounds too deep for a human to make. He tossed his head back and forth, from right to left, and kept growling like a wild animal. I could feel the deep vibration in the tone of his voice. I was frightened. I wanted to run, but was afraid to let go. Then his head stopped for a moment and our eyes met. That’s when I knew. His once brown eyes where now frosty white. I could see the outline of an iris and pupil, but they were shades of white; not brown and black like before. Some physiological change had occurred in the boy and I was staring into the eyes of what appeared to be a demon. I cried out to my friends to look, and when they saw what I saw, together we started crying out to the Lord for help. The boy continued to whip his head back and forth and on occasion stop and look at me. I knew there was something supernatural at work; something dark. My friends and I lay on the floor of the cabin crying, shaking, hearts racing, too afraid to let go, and calling out to the only One we knew could help us.
After nearly ten minutes, the boy began to calm down. The growling began to soften. His head stopped turning from side to side and he looked upward toward the ceiling. It took a minute, but I watched his eyes slowly fade from white to brown. Suddenly, the boy’s facial expression turned from anger to confusion. He started looking around the room in bewilderment and wanted to know how he got on the floor and why we were crying. I was fearful it was some sort of demonic trick and asked my friends not to release him for a few minutes. After we saw his eyes remain normal for a little bit, and his strength and behavior seemed normal, we let go of him and lifted him to his feet. He said the last thing he remembered was us praying over him and being extremely afraid, although he did not know why he was afraid.
The boy then conveyed what he saw in his mind after we started praying for him. Originally, he said he could hear our prayers, but our voices gradually softened and then there was silence. He said he was standing in complete darkness, when there appeared a light from above. Like a spotlight, it shown on a dark figure that was tall, dressed in a black cloak, with red eyes. The light appeared to cause distress to the dark figure, although it made no sound. The boy said he watched the figure thrash its arms around as though trying to fight off the light, but it could not. Slowly the figure began to fall backwards, swinging its arms violently as it fell, and after about ten minutes, it finally hit the ground. The boy said after the light faded away, he suddenly became aware us laying over him on the ground and crying out to the Lord for help. We were stunned at his account.
We grabbed him by his arms and with nervous excitement we marched back up to the main campground and grabbed the nearest adult we could find and exclaimed a demon had just been cast out of this boy. We were so nervous and excited, we kept repeating ourselves. Several adults took the boy from us and went into a nearby room where they prayed over him and shared the gospel message. About twenty minutes later the boy emerged and came and talked with us. He said someone in his family was involved in occult practices and several months earlier he’d been encouraged to invite a “friendly spirit” into his life to help guide him. That’s when his life changed for the worse and his fears and nightmares began. By the time we finished talking, the movie had ended and it was time to go back to our cabins for the night. I barely slept a wink. I doubt the other kids did either.
This personal story is true as best I remember. My thoughts and memories are adequately clear to lead me to think this was a legitimate case of demon possession. I realize only those who were there that night can verify this account, and I’ve not been able to contact any of them since that event.
Steven R. Cook, M.Div.