Guest Blogger Leigh Rich — On Demons and Doctors

While I may be too scared to dare hock horror with the likes of the ghoulish
Leppek-Isler duo, I am compelled to add my two cents (and valueless sense) to
this bloodthirsty blog.As a horror novice and a virgin blogger, I find myself
settling in an Aristotelian middle ground and concurring with both halves of
this demon-duet: Atmosphere and all those secrets we silently store in the
subconscious go together like rigor and mortis.

I can’t think of an eerier atmosphere than Rosemary Woodhouse’s New York
apartment, furnished with a struggling actor husband (come on, what’s scarier
than that?); elderly neighbors who push homemade sweets and unsolicited advice
with the oomph of a Bubbe; and, oh yes, the devil lurking somewhere around your
kneecaps.

I jest, but not indelicately: The first time I watched Rosemary’s Baby was with
a friend in Tucson, Arizona.We developed a habit of meeting at her house after
our evening classes, scrounging around for take-out fit for the grad-school
budget, and visiting the local video-house (Casa Video, the film-lover’s answer
to the intellectual desertification creeping across America).Problem was, Lisa
loved horror … and my weak knees matched my weak will.Thus, horror it was.

I can’t begin to rattle off all that we saw, for I watched most through the gaps
of my fingers or simply sneaked off to play with the cats in the kitchen.But
with Rosemary’s Baby, I couldn’t look away.And after Rosemary (and my psyche)
had survived an evening of violation, I hesitantly headed home through the unlit
Arizona foothills, where one can’t catch a breath in the thin air and the stars
are distant and cold.And where ghouls and fiends and devils lie in wait on
dark desert nights.

mia.jpg
Mia as Rosemary — an evening of violation.

It didn’t help, of course, that I was taking a course on Ethnomedicine that
semester, and I spent my days entranced by witches and sorcerers and the evil
eye.Mani asks if there is “really such a thing as demonic possession,” and the
answer is, clearly, yes.(Find any ethnography on the bottom shelf of a
library, and demons will rise through the dust.)Culture is a powerful thing,
and although I as a “modern” (or perhaps “postmodern”) can scoff at such
things, were I a young woman in rural north India (Taraka’s Ghost by Stanley
A. Freed and Ruth S. Freed) or the southern Sudan (Religion and Healing in
Mandari
by Jean Buxton), possession might be par for the course.

Possession requires a mix of atmosphere and individual susceptibility, and so I
submit that all that’s fit to be feared is intimately connected to culture.
What scares us always contains an element of the possible, even if only
symbolically.

I never needed those terrifying Tuesdays in Tucsonto make me shiver like a meth
addict – there’s plenty I fear every day.Even sending one’s thoughts into the
vast reaches of the Intertubes isn’t without it risks.(Nothing embodies
“chaos” more than the World Wide Web – that postmodern Peyton Place where any
and all can espouse opinions at any time of the day.)

As Mani states, “Can you imagine speaking to a total stranger (and a non-human
one at that) who knows your deepest, darkest secrets?”

This is why I don’t socialize with my doctor …

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