Counselling the Devil

DENIS ARMSTRONG

, Last Updated: 3:56 PM ET

Talk radio hosts are used to hearing strange things.

 And then there's John Counsell, host of CFRA's Late Night Counsell, which is heard every weeknight from 10 to midnight.

 The man berates devils and demons. He serves eviction notices to unruly spirits inhabiting someone else's soul.

 He's a contemporary exorcist.

 'The dark side'

 And he's to be believed, he does a pretty good job. Somewhat like a spiritual superintendent, he says he's evicted between six and 24 evil spirits over the past 10 years.

 Fortunately, Counsell, 40, has a day job he can fall back on. He's a Pentecostal minister and pastor to the faithful at Parkway Road Church in Greely.

 Unfortunately, satanic business is picking up for Counsell.

 "The dark side, the occult is growing these days," he says. "There were many more cases of demonic possession now than in the 1960s."

 He's seen many possessions and conversions over his 19-year career as a minister.

 "There was a young teenage girl who was playing with Ouija boards with her friends until they got bored of it," said Counsell. "She spent all her free time at the board by herself until she began hearing voices urging her to harm herself and her friends. Eventually, she became suicidal."

 That's when he met her. He prayed with her until the possession left her.

 Two years ago Counsell exorcised a teenage boy who was into drugs and punk rock. He started hearing sinister voices urging him to be violent. Desperate, the teenager went to Counsell.

 "We held hands and tried to pray and as we prayed, he doubled over as if violently sick while making this horrible choking noise. He said in a strange voice that the demon was not going to come out but we fought it.

 "I said to the demon, 'You know you have no right over this host.' Fifteen minutes later, the boy collapsed, free of the possession."

 His late father Rev. Jack Counsell evangelized on radio in Windsor. He groomed his son for the front line in the territorial war with the Devil.

 "When I was nine or 10 years old, my father had a case of a 13-year-old who was possessed. He writhed and hissed like a snake while six adults held him down. Then, this child threw all six men off him like a sack of feathers. Dad argued with the demon for about an hour before it said 'I'm not leaving,' in a low, guttural voice, and then another voice saying 'the other demon's gone but I'm not leaving.'

 "By the end of the night my father had cast out seven demons from the boy."

 Counsell also speaks of the family in Manitoba who heard the voice in their dead aunt, and another family who heard strange noises and could smell burning sulphur.

 The problems, he said, went away once he exorcised the homes.

 Of course, there are many skeptics when it comes to exorcisms, including Dr. George Fraser, one of Canada's leading psychiatric experts in the field.

 Fraser, of the Ottawa Anxiety and Trauma Clinic, recently wrote a study of seven psychiatric patients who had undergone exorcisms with devastating results.

 While the patients improved initially after the exorcism, their possessions grew much worse later on, he said.

 Ironically, the exorcism confirmed the malevolent condition while ignoring the psychiatric organic condition that created the possession-state in the first place.

 'Frightening'

 "A religious ceremony on someone who has a medical condition can actually make the problem worse by frightening them," says Fraser. "The exorcism ceremony compounds the problem by missing the boat because it doesn't get to the base of the problem.

 "No one should consider going through an exorcism if they have not gone through a proper psychiatric evaluation by people who are familiar with the conditions that can mimic possessions."

 But Counsell believes in the power of evil, and he says the problem with demonic possession these days is it's become so much a part of our popular culture, we're no longer shocked by them the way we were when the film The Exorcist first possessed audiences.

 He points to on-line pornography, marketing that quotes S&M lifestyles, even professional wrestling as ways Satanism has found its way into our daily culture.

 "Everybody has a dark side, a side that wants to sin, and if you feed it, it takes over your whole being," he warns.


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