The Exorcist Files: Demons, Sin & Deliverance

Whether you believe in the devil, spiritual warfare, demons or exorcism... curiosity of the topic is high. It has been the topic of Hollywood movie themes for years and while most are inaccurate, Father Carlos Martins says demonic possession is real. And for some of the most disturbing and vicious cases, he was the priest often summoned. With almost two decades in ministry, renowned exorcist Father Martins has encountered evil in nearly every way imaginable and now a podcast, The Exorcist Files share his stories.

Risen sat down with Father Martins, and show producer/narrator Ryan Bethea, to talk about the series, clear up some misinformation and also get steps to safeguard ourselves. The conversation is fascinating.

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Interviewed for Risen Magazine

Risen Magazine: You're either in the extremes where you are so into this idea of exorcism that you want to know every detail, how it's done, what's going on, or you want to have nothing to do with it. Just the mention of it might enter into your household and it's do not have it. I think a lot of people probably fall somewhere in the middle where they have a healthy curiosity as to what this is, how to navigate it. So Father Martins, let's start with you and maybe just talk to me about what the message is here about exorcisms.

Father Carlos Martins: So I think you hit the nail on the head. People are generally either totally into the concept or totally out, and there's very few people that kind of stand in between. It's understandable that it's frightening. It's frightening to people. However, it is a fundamental part of our Christian faith. And you cannot find a page in the gospel where Christ is not doing battle with demons. And in fact, the building of his kingdom is an act of pillaging of the demonic kingdom.

So Christ is God's repo man, if we can speak that way, where he's clawing back territory that he had given to Adam, our first parent, and Adam forfeited through his end. Now, I state this, I state that it was Adam sin. Yes, both Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, the forbidden fruit, but only Adam's act was a covenant destroying act. And that's why in the Catholic church we call it the sin of Adam, not the sin of Adam and Eve and why it necessitated a new Adam, because the covenant was made with Adam, not with Eve.

So with regard to that, we have a pillaging happening that Christ is doing and the devil is not happy about that. So this is something that it is a fundamental part of our faith. And people, they may not be into the devil, but the concept of what Christ is doing in freeing the people he loves from the grip of the enemy should be a concept that interests everyone, every Christian.

RM: Well, absolutely. And then it brings up the question of how do you identify what that looks like? How do you know if spiritual warfare is real, then how do we know if it indeed is some sort of dark or demonic presence or if it's just an addiction or mental illness or something else that's gripping the person? How do you decipher those levels?

FCM: A very good question. So mental illness is a thing, addiction is a thing, and sometimes those things can appear demonic, especially mental illness. And some people, their mental illness is such that they cannot distinguish between what occurs inside the mind, what the mind is doing, the mind of course being manipulated by the brain and the brain being sick and what is objectively an act of evil. And so the only way to discover that is to discover supernatural activity, activity that is beyond the natural. In other words, we have to test for that. And the three classic signs insofar as the Catholic church is concerned, which is laid out in our manual for exorcism, which we call the rite of exorcism, is superhuman strength. So strength that goes beyond what a human being is typically capable of. So 120 pound woman normally cannot pick up a 320 pound man and throw him across the room.

So if that happens, we have something here beyond the realm of the natural. Secondly, knowledge of unknown languages. And so what I'm talking about is not just a few words, but speaking in whole paragraphs with perfect grammar, speaking in a language that the person has never been taught. Thirdly is the knowledge of the hidden. Factual knowledge of things over which they could not possibly know. So for example, to know what is happening five rooms down the hall with absolute precision at this point in time, to know where you were last week on Tuesday morning when you were in a completely different state and can recite word for word, fact for fact what you were doing, who you were with, how long you were doing that and so forth.

So those kinds of things point to the... There's no natural explanation for those kinds of things. You have to revert to the supernatural. Now, the devil is not going to just sit there and let you test for that. Okay, well, speak to me in a foreign language. He doesn't want you to know. He doesn't want to be aware of his presence. So what he will do is hide. So in order to get that information out, there has to be prayer applied and prayer is torturous to the devil.

And it will not take long for there to be a reaction. Now, somebody with mental illness or even somebody who desires to fake, if prayer is being done, well, then they're going to react and they're going to play the part so to speak. So that alone is not sufficient. The prayer, the spiritual activity has to be done in a hidden way such that the person who is in front of you is unaware that prayer is being done. And then if there are reactions and those reactions happen on cue, now you've established the presence of the supernatural.

RM: So I have a question, and it's kind of twofold here. Is there a way to safeguard yourself against this happening. As a faith-filled individual, does a demon have authority to be able to come in? Is that a misconception? And then second fold, is there something you personally have to do, your mind, body before you enter into a situation where you may be performing an exorcism?

FCM: Well, let's start with your first question. How do people protect themselves? And they protect themselves by living in the fullness of the dignity and identity which God gave them. So it means walking with Christ. And if we walk with him, we are protected by him. And so that means living a good Christian moral life. That means rooting out sin from your life. It means performing the works of charity that Christians do. It means worshiping God, having a prayer life.

And so all of those things, what they do is allow grace to penetrate inside of us. And grace is nothing other than God himself. It's God's spirit. So that is a way to protect yourself, but primarily it is the rooting out of sin from your life, the rooting out of sin because the devil enters into one's life through sin. How I prepare myself for any exorcist, well, of course we pray and we will fast before an exorcism. We do everything else that any Christian would. We have a general prayer life. We have a connection to the Lord, and we cultivate his grace through living a Christian life. But specifically, we will prepare ourselves through prayer and fasting before a session.

RM: Ryan, let's bring you into the conversation here. You and I go way back and I know you tend to gravitate towards more kind of comical, humorous, fun material. So diving into this, what was it that drew you to it and then how you and Father Martins met for the creation of The Exorcist Files?

Ryan Bethea: So you're suggesting, Kelly, that exorcism wasn't what you felt would be my immediate next project? Yeah, I didn't either. There are days I wake up and you go, this is my life. I do love dropping into conversations when I go, excuse me, my exorcist is calling. So Father knows I have to keep... He's on top of the speed dial there and it's a line I've been waiting years to be able to drop into a meeting. So yeah, this is a departure, but I will say that obviously I love having conversations about the deeper things in life and I'm always about getting at truth. And I know that what we're working on is going to sound bonkers to some people. I totally understand that. And I come at this as being from a production standpoint, I'm trying to be the skeptic, no pun intended, the devil's advocate here and trying to be open about, all right, there's a lot of doubt and mystery and misconceptions about this.

But after you interview and there's a certain number, when you've had a certain number, and for my case well over a hundred people who I know are rational, smart, have no reason to mislead me, and they share stories of encounters with spirits, et cetera, you just start to go, okay, something's happening. And I want to capture this. I also like documenting shared experiences. And just so the listeners know, lest you think if you have seen a ghost or just a fan of Ghostbusters and you think you are the lone person who is the only one who believes this, it was a recent poll, 45%, just less than half Americans believe in ghosts. So just know that everyone in the room, half of them are on your side. They think they've seen something too. I actually went out to, I got to go visit the Vatican, which I recommend everyone do.

Regardless of what faith you subscribe to, it is a place of just unprecedented and unprepared beauty. It is gorgeous. And I was fortunate enough to get to meet a few individuals there of one of which is a mutual friend now of Father Martins and I. I was actually researching a miracle show. I wanted see as the Catholic church has a documented process for investigating claims of supernatural healing as it pertains to saints. And I was fascinated with this.

It just happened to be in the way life works. At the end of that, when we realized it was going to be a long haul and may not be feasible to do that show, as sort of an offhanded comment, he goes, by the way, would you also be interested in this topic? And I said, absolutely. And then he said, "Well, if you are interested in this topic, there is only one person you need to talk to, and that is Father Carlos Martins." And I said, "How do I find this man?" And he said, "Well, he's busy doing exorcisms in Arizona right now." And I said, "Please give me his number if I can." And that's how we met.

RM: I've got to imagine for you, Ryan, that there had to be some surprises along the way. I'm sure that things there were confirmations. But for you what surprised you most about being involved with the show?

RB: I knew I had heard interesting stories before, and even in studying miracles, I knew that there are widespread claims of this, but I think... I mean one, and for listeners who subscribe to the show, I don't know if you're ready for some of the things you'll hear, they defy credulity. And I love that I was not prepared my other co-producer on the show, and I sat down with Father in Detroit. And I said, "I'm ready." I thought I was ready, I wasn't. And he shared story after story, and you notice that there's a lot of creativity with the enemy. And so these stories don't have any confines. Every topic is covered. But I think I was also surprised, and I shared this in the show, one of the challenges, and I think things that a lot of us wrestle with theologically is that you want to have a rhyme and a reason and an explanation for everything.

When I read these cases, I want to go, oh, well, that person did X, ergo they did... Y is the result. And that is not the case. There are some people who seem to commit or involve themselves in sins that you would go, okay, well, I think there's probably billions of people who do that. And that was the entry point in that case for a demonic attack. And then in other cases, people do things for years or something and nothing happens. And so there is a sort of letting go and just there's a sovereignty of God in the same way with healings where I don't know why some people get healed or have crazy answers to prayer and others don't. In the same way, I am surprised constantly. There's no way I can... For some reason God won't let me put them in a box. And that remains a source of frustration for me. But it's just the stories, the phenomena, everything. It's just very interesting.

RM: Hollywood's been fascinated with it for years from hints of truth they say with The Conjuring and so forth. Of course, the very famous, The Exorcist. Father Martins, curious, how do these types of films sit with you? Are they something that you think that's fun for people to poke fun with and get a good scare? Does it set back what you are doing? Does it help?

FCM: Does it help? Well, if it's the truth, it helps. What I find is most of the films about the demonic are just not truthful. They have a lot of creative license. And I think in the end it kind of shows. When Hollywood wants to create something terrifying, it doesn't create a movie about aliens or monsters, werewolves, vampires. What it does is it creates a movie about the devil because there's something in the human person that abhors at the primordial level the devil, that there's a primordial instinct that in an exorcism movie that just is hit and the people feel that to the deepest court of their being. So no one laughs, for example, in an exorcism movie. They may laugh in an alien movie, they may laugh in a horror movie with bodies being cut open and things like that, but they just don't laugh during an exorcism movie.

So the fact, it's not surprising that that's a theme that Hollywood always goes to. What I find is very few of them are done accurately. There are some, like the classic movie, The Exorcist. The only thing in that movie that I haven't witnessed, and that would be... That you simply wouldn't witness is the 180 degree spinning of the head in the victim. That just defies... The body couldn't keep its integrity and have that happen. Right? There would be a death of the individual, but everything else, including the levitation, does occur.

So in that sense, the fact that people are made aware of the reality, I don't have any issue of it. It's when it's composed in a way that has no connection to reality. If the devil is in somebody, he is there for a reason. Those reasons, as an exorcist, those are the most interesting things. The phenomena gets all the press and all the publicity. It gets all the sizzle and the excitement. But after a while, I mean for me, the devil almost never performs any demonstrations, any of the parlor tricks. Why? Because those are done in order to scare off his enemy, to scare off the one who was trying to deliver him from the victim. Well, if you're past your fears, if you no longer have any fear, if that is not something that is going to affect your person at all, well, he doesn't waste his energy in that and he directs it to resisting you and to try to resist the power of God.

RM: Ryan, before we go here, talk to me about where we can hear The Exorcist Files, and also the way we're going to hear it.

RB: It's called The Exorcist Files. It's available wherever you get your podcast. So Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio is our partner on this. It's available anywhere you get your podcast, and it's done in 3D binary audio, which is as much fun to listen to as that is to say.

You basically, if you have earphones on, any old earphones will do, you'll actually, during these dramatic reenactments, which we decided to do to help try and make this more authentic and bring it to life, we used a 3D mic to capture all the acoustics of every scene to try and give you an experience. Obviously, we hope and pray you never have to be in an exorcism. So this is the best case you're going to get is to listen and learn. And I think it's a really cool immersive experience. So if you put on headphones, you'll hear all the quadrants, all the sounds, and it's trippy. It's a really cool thing. But it comes out January 25th with our first episode dropping. So we encourage everyone to go download it and maybe listen to it with the lights on.

The Exorcist Files is available wherever you get your podcast beginning January 25

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