Hunting Demons: A True Story of the Dark Side of the Supernatural by Sylvia Shults was released by Whitechapel Productions Press in August 2015 in both print and digital formats. This survey of demonology is surprisingly human, combining both cultural and religious history with a compelling personal experience. The combination is unique and takes a skilled writer to execute. It is clunky at times, but helps provide context for an incredible tale.
Hunting Demons is 158 pages and informally divided into two parts. The first part examines the history of demons and Satanism in Western and Middle Eastern culture, and the second is a personal tale of a woman from central Illinois who believed demons were tormenting her. The personal experience is primarily grounded in Catholic theology, although it begins with a paranormal investigation. Because of this, it may have been more helpful for the author to focus on demonology from a Catholic perspective, rather than a more general overview.
In her historical and cultural survey, Sylvia Shults looks at demons and satanism from early human history to the present day. She transitions from the dark side in contemporary TV shows to the evolution of religion and evil spirits. While interesting, this history is non-linear and has several noticeable gaps. For example, Shults jumps from the Salem Witch Trials to Vatican II in the 1960s. In her chapter on satanic panics, she goes from the heresies of the Middle Ages to the cult scare of the 1980s.
One of the most interesting chapters explores Middle Eastern concepts of the demonic. For Muslims in the Middle East, demons most often take the form of djinn, which are more like forces of nature. They are fickle and destructive, and attack humans through no fault of their own. This comparison of eastern vs western attitudes towards demons is a bright spot in the book, but does little to help understand the subject’s personal experience.
The centerpiece of Hunting Demons is the story of “Linda K.” The author met Linda while researching Peoria State Hospital for her book Fractured Spirits. Linda was a professed psychic-medium who formed a team of paranormal investigators in central Illinois. She urged the author to write about her battle with demons after an investigation gone bad. The demons allegedly tormented her for over a year before she finally subdued their attack through prayer.
In the end, it is unclear whether the book’s historical portion was meant to introduce Linda’s experience, or Linda’s experience was meant to illustrate the history. However, readers will be left with a better understanding of how the idea of demons continues to influence our culture.
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