By Noah W. Hutchings (excerpted from the bestselling book God’s Ghostbusters)
I feel somewhat inadequate to contribute to a series on ghost busters since, as far as I can remember, I have never seen or met a ghost to bust. After moving into a house we had purchased from a former owner in 1988, my wife and I did hear (or thought we heard) noises, as if someone was rambling around in the attic. However, these could have been made by rats, squirrels, or birds. I can also remember my parents and grandparents talking about ghosts, but I never saw one.
In the King James Version of the Bible, the word “ghost” is used in relating to a person passing away (“giving up the ghost”), as in Genesis 25:8 and some fifteen other verses of Scripture. In various areas throughout the Bible, we do find such expressions as “spirit,” “unclean spirit,” “evil spirit,” and “devils.” “Demon” is translated into one of the preceding words in some nineteen Scriptures, and as Paul stated in Ephesians 6:11, we are to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
In The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare by Ed Murphy (published by Nelson and almost six hundred and fifty pages), the subject of demonic possession and the influence of evil spirits or demons in the lives of Christians and non-Christians is examined exhaustively by the author. According to Dr. Murphy, some individuals can be completely possessed by demons, and Jesus cast seven evil spirits out of Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9).[i] We read in John 10:21 that even Jesus was accused of having a demon (devil), and in John 10:20, He was accused of having both a demon and of being mentally ill.
In the past (and often even today), mental illness has been (and is being) confused with demon possession. There are three main types of mental illness: schizophrenia, bipolar, and paranoia. Mental illness is an inherited mental condition. My first wife, with whom I spent twenty-seven years, was schizophrenic. I have spent many hours in hospitals’ mental-treatment wards and mental clinics. Because of my personal experiences, I have more sympathy for those suffering mental illness than I do for those suffering from physical causes. Those who are mentally ill often suffer far more than those with physical needs. Clinical depression is also said to be a mental illness, but I do not classify it as such because it is self-imposed due to a seemingly-irreconcilable personal problem or need. When the depressed individual learns how to reconcile his/her problem, he/she usually recovers within two years (facing potential suicidal tendencies if they don’t recover within that approximate time frame).
Our minds are the most mysterious creations of God that could ever possibly be imagined. Recently, I watched a television program presenting the big bands of 1940 performing the songs that were popular in the pew-WWII era. As the music started playing, I could recall lyrics that I had not heard for seventy years. At eighty-eight years of age, I can still recall and play out scenes in my head from the first year I went to school. Our minds can be touched or influenced by things that are good and things that are evil. It is impossible for me to conceive the evil that some do, except that they may be influenced by an outside source or spirit.
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Since 1960, we have conducted a secondary prison ministry that operates out of the base of our main ministry, Southwest Radio Ministries. Each year, we produce a prophecy calendar for prisoners, for which I have always written the subject theme. It is not unusual to send four thousand calendars to one prison. In addition, we provide Bibles, commentaries, books, DVDs, and other materials. We also have a secretary whose only job responsibility within the ministry is to answer prisoners’ letters. We have communicated with thousands of prisoners, some who have been convicted of crimes so terrible we would not want to describe them in print, even anonymously. The signature line of recent TV comedian, Flip Wilson, was, “The devil made me do it.” Men and women kill, rob, steal, cheat, rape, and abuse others out of passion, need, jealousy, boredom, or at times, just because the “devil told them to do it.” However, God ordained human government with the responsibility of protectins the innocent and prosecuting the guilty. Men and women are in prison for the same reason that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit—listening to the devil rather than believing God.
In passing a lake on a calm morning, the ripples indicate to us the thousands of life forms in the water. We know the wind is blowing by the bending of the limbs on the tress. It is known there are thousands of millions of microscopic life forms, both helpful and harmful in just one drop of water. It is likewise with the spirit world. Many Christians do not take the warning of Paul seriously that we are under attack daily by unseen powers which he described as the “wiles of the devil.”
On page 433 of The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare, Dr. Ed Murphy lists the four areas of satanic demonization:
- Illicit sexual practices or fantasies out-of-control.
- Deep-seated anger, bitterness, hatred, rage and rebellion, often leading to destructive and/or self-destructive impulses.
- A sense of rejection, guilt, poor self-esteem, unworthiness, and shame.
- Strange attraction to the occult and to the spirit world, often, but not always, with a desire for illicit power over circumstances and other people.[ii]
Through our prison ministry, the majorities of inmates we hear from have either come from Christian homes already, or have considered repenting of their sins and turning to God for help after they entered prison. In the late 1970s or early 1980s, we heard from one prisoner, Charles “Tex” Watson, through the prison ministry of Chaplain Ray Hokstra. Charles came from a Christian home, but dropped out of college, moved to California, and became associated with a psychopath by the name of Charles Manson.[iii] Manson gathered several males and females around him whom he called “the family.” On August 9, 1969, Manson sent several members of his “family” under the leadership of Tex Watson to rob and kill. The heinous murders committed by the group in the homes of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas were the most terrible and inhuman in the police records. For his part in these unspeakable crimes, Watson was sentenced to the gas chamber, along with Charles Manson. California later abolished the death penalty, so both were sentenced to life imprisonment.
In the mid-1970s, Tex Watson, according to reports, repented of his sins and believed on Jesus Christ as the One who died for his sins. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could carry such a guilt and burden of sins that must have been on the conscience of Watson. When King David was burdened with the guilt of his affair with Bathsheba and then sending her husband into the heat of battle to get killed to cover his sin, he cried out to God (in Psalm 51:7–12): “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
Watson later married Kristin Svege in prison and she bore him four children before divorcing him in 2003. Chaplain Ray wrote Watson’s biography titled, Will You Die For Me? I became somewhat interested and involved in a parole effort for Tex Watson through Chaplain Ray as I remember. However, my efforts were minimal as I could not understand how anyone who had committed the crimes as unspeakable as Watson could ever be paroled. Tex has applied thirteen times for a parole and his next attempt is due in December 2011. We do praise God that Tex, like many other criminals, have discovered:
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.[iv]
As of the writing of this chapter, Charles Manson was still alive and in prison.[v] He did make news again on the fortieth anniversary of his sentencing. An email online article dated April 18, 2011 noted that Manson was concerned about so-called global warming.[vi] We would think that Manson would be more concerned about how hot hell is going to be.
The only letters that are directed to me at Southwest Radio Church Ministries are those that need special attention or answers. Some of the letters I receive are from those who indicate that they may be suffering from a mental illness, as I have a personal concern and can often help them or direct them to a doctor or mental health facility. This may have been one reason that the letters from one David Berkowitz made their way to my desk. I do not remember exactly how many letters from David I received, but there were several. I likewise cannot recall if some of his letters might have been before his arrest in late 1977 or not.
David was the adopted son of Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz.[vii] He was evidently, according to biographical reports, well-loved, yet he felt resentful toward being an adopted child. He was large for his age and a loner in his teens, which could indicate a hidden mental condition. Those suffering from paranoia or schizophrenia are usually loners. I do remember that one of David’s letters was in response to an article I wrote titled, “The Blood of Babylon.” I believe it was this letter that I was answering, when one of the secretaries told me this was the man who was arrested for all those murders in New York.
A few days later, I got a call from the District Attorney of Queens wanting the letters that David Berkowitz had written to me. I informed the DA that these were personal and private letters and I had no intention of turning them over to him. The next morning, a police officer was at our office with a subpoena. We either did not have time to make copies or didn’t think about it. If we had thought to make copies, I would have more information on which to address this part of the chapter.
According to details reported on the crimes of David Berkowitz, while he lived next door to a man by the name of Sam Carr whose barking dog kept him awake at night, David shot the dog, but still other dogs would keep him awake. In his own mind, he would think the dogs were demons commanding him to go out and kill women. He also became convinced that Sam Carr was a demon. When he was arrested, he gave his name to the police as the “Son of Sam.”
From July 29, 1976 to July 31, 1977, David Berkowitz killed or wounded fifteen (mostly young) people. Berkowitz later admitted to an FBI investigator, Robert Ressler, that he made up the “Son of Sam” story to make the police (and courts) think that he was insane. Regardless, whether this was a case of demon possession or mental illness, they both could be related.
I never heard what part David’s letters to me may have played at his trial, if any. I do know that he later informed me that he had received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and his sins have been forgiven. I understand that he is a chaplain’s assistant and a model prisoner. From his letters to me, I am confident that he has found both peace of mind and peace of soul through faith in Jesus Christ.
For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.[viii]
Below is a copy of a letter I received (in full, with typos, misspellings, format, layout, and inconsistencies intact) from David dated June 16, 2004:
|David Berkowitz # 78A1976|
Sullivan Correctional FAcility
Noah W. Hutchings
Southwest Radio Church
[ADDRESS REMOVED] June 16, 2004
Dear Brother Hutchings:
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have your letter dated June 7th. Thank you very much for the calendar and the book, “A CHristian’s Guide to Prison Survival.” I passed the calendar on to a friend who was very grateful.
It was a nice suprise to hear from you.
Praise God, I have been doing well. The Lord has been faithful to guide and protect me. I am so grateful for his love, mercy and forgiveness.
Presently I have been incarcerated for almost 27 years. The Lord is using me inside of this place and He is teaching me to be content whatever my circumstances.
We have a blessed Christian fellowship and my Chaplain is “born again.” He loves the Lord.
Thank you so much for praying for me. I ask the Lord to Continue to bless Southwest Radio Church. It will not be until you get to heaven that you will know all those who were helped by your ministry.
Keep the faith!
Yours in Christ,
The third example of demonic possession or attack is referenced by Ed. Murphy on page 439 of his book on spiritual warfare: “Sexual Abuse…Extreme shame and sexual problems. Fear and anger also occur.”[ix] Also in this category, Dr. Murphy mentions fanatical obsession, and we would also include intense and unreasonable jealousy.
In the late ’70s or early ’80s, I remember receiving a letter from a young man who wanted me to get him a date with movie star Jodie Foster. This young man was John Hinckley. This letter was sent to me for an answer probably because it appeared to be a rather urgent request and Jodie Foster was, at that time, still young and no more than twenty-one years old. Even at that young age, she had already starred in several movies and won several national acting awards.
The writer said that he was from Ardmore, Oklahoma, and I had probably either mentioned in print of on the radio that I went to school at Ardmore. I was born at Hugo, Oklahoma, but in 1939, war in Europe was spreading and the demand for airplanes and other war materials were increasing. I went to a vocational-technical school to learn how to make airplanes. To this day, when I pass through Ardmore on Interstate 35, the building where I went to school is still there, but it’s included in a larger complex. (Gene Autry’s ranch was just to the north of Ardmore and on Saturday afternoon, he would park his convertible on Main Street and give a free concert for the locals.)
I can remember very clearly what I told John Hinckley in my response letter. I informed him that Jodie Foster was one of the most famous women in the world and a millionaire. Also, even at that time, it was well-known that she did not like men as personal friends, possibly because she was cast as a child prostitute when she was fourteen years old, and it changed the way men looked at her.[x]
I told this young writer that God had a beautiful and wonderful mate waiting for him and all that he had to do was find her. I suggested that he might find her in a local church even, and suggested that he look for her there. As far as I know, I never heard from the writer again.
Hinckley, from information in Wikipedia, became obsessed with Jodie Foster after repeatedly watching her performance in the movie Taxi Driver, wherein she played a child prostitute.[xi] His parents were extremely wealthy business owners and he was able to enter Yale where Foster was enrolled just to be near her. According to reports, he also constantly called her and slipped love letters under her door, but she was not interested in him, and probably no other man.
Jodie left Yale to get away from him, yet Hinckley continued to pursue. He planned to kill President Carter to get her attention and interest, but he was never in the right position to do so. (This plan was modeled after the character Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, played by Robert De Niro, who had schemes of assassinating a presidential candidate. Other of Hinckley’s previous plans to impress Foster included committing suicide in front of her by crashing an airplane to become her “equal” by securing a name in history.) When he was arrested on a firearms charge in Nashville Tennessee while in pursuit of President Carter, Hinckley returned home for a brief period, and then came up with the plan to assassinate newly-elected President Ronald Reagan in 1981. He wrote the following letter to Foster just prior to his attempt on Reagan’s life: “Over the past seven months I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself…the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you.”[xii]
At 1:30 in the afternoon on March 30, 1981, John Hinckley, Jr. fired six shots from a .22 caliber pistol into the men assisting President Reagan to his limousine. Three of the president’s assistants were wounded and President Reagan, himself, was also seriously wounded.
On March 30, 1981, I was returning from China on a 747 jet airliner. I had been to China on a mission of smuggling Bibles for the emerging underground churches. The stewardess announced that President Reagan had just been shot by a John Hinckley for the purpose of impressing Jodie Foster. I immediately remembered the letter I had written Hinckley the previous year.
As far as I know, Jodie Foster has not married. She remains one of the most famous female actresses in the world, having starred in many movies and plays, winning scores of awards and commendations.
John Hinckley was judged guilty of attempted murder and various other charges by reason of insanity on June 21, 1982. From reports, it appears that he continued in his unrequited obsession for Jodie Foster. However, in recent years and months, he has been allowed visitors and even frequent leaves from prison. There is much talk at the present time about a parole, as his mental condition has improved. There are also reports that he is a model prisoner now.
Reverend Jennifer Ryu of the Williamsburg, Virginia Unitarian Universalists Church has reported that John Hinckley has contacted her about volunteer service at her church when he is released.[xiii]
Obviously, John Hinckley’s mental condition has improved, and we trust his demonic obsession with the ghost of Jodie Foster all these years later has faded and, at last, found peace through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.[xiv]
UP NEXT: The Angel of Death vs. the Gift of Life
[i] Edward F. Murphy, The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare: Revised & Updated (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003).
[ii] Ibid., p. 433.
[iii] For this and other facts about Watson in this chapter, see: “Charles ‘Tex’ Watson,” Wikipedia, last modified May 17, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tex_Watson#Conviction.
[iv] “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus,” a hymn written by Robert Lowry, and published in Gospel Music (New York: Biglow & Main, 1876).
[v] “Charles Manson,” Wikipedia, last modified May 30, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_manson.
[vi] Daily Mail Reporter, “Global Warming Must Be True, Charles Manson Believes in it: Killer Breaks 20-Year Silence on 40th Anniversary of Gruesome Sharon Tate Murders,” Associated Newspapers Ltd., Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group, April 19, 2011, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1378178/Charles-Manson-breaks-20-year-silence-40th-anniversary-gruesome-Sharon-Tate-murders.html.
[vii] For this and other facts about David Berkowitz in this chapter, see: “David Berkowitz,” Wikipedia, last modified May 29, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Berkowitz, and “David Berkowitz—The Son of Sam,” written by Charles Montaldo, accessed June 2, 2011, http://crime.about.com/od/murder/p/sonofsam.htm.
[viii] Lowry, “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus,” Gospel Music.
[ix] Murphy, The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare, p. 439.
[x] For this and other facts about Jodie Foster in this chapter, see: “Jodie Foster,” Wikipedia, last modified June 1, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jodie_Foster.
[xi] For this and other facts about John Hinckley in this chapter, see: “John Hinckley, Jr.,” Wikipedia, last modified May 29, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hinckley,_Jr.
[xii] “John Hinckley, Jr.,” Wikipedia, last modified May 29, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hinckley,_Jr.
[xiii] Shelby Brown, “John Hinckley, Jr. to be Released to Our Area?: Man Who Tried to Assassinate President Reagan Asks to be Released to Mother’s Home,” CBS News, WTVR, April 26, 2010, http://www.wtvr.com/news/wtvr-hinckley-042610,0,2140822,print.story.
[xiv] Lowry, “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus,” Gospel Music.