Last Friday night I attended Pastor Bob Larson’s “Demon Proofing Prayers Seminar” in Denver. Larson is an evangelist, although he’s more famous for being an exorcist. He fashions himself as “the Real Exorcist”, and “the world’s foremost expert on cults, the occult, and supernatural phenomena”.1
The seminar was a thinly veiled book tour for Larson’s 30th title: Demon Proofing Prayers – Bob Larson’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare. He urged everyone to buy a copy, and told us that our attendance would be virtually useless without it. The seminar was also an introduction to Larson’s demon-destroying debutantes, the “Teenage Exorcists”.2 This trio of precocious protégés includes Larson’s daughter Brynne, and sisters Tess and Savannah Scherkenback (who is more twenty-something than teenage). Larson is grooming these girls to help head his ministry. Meanwhile, he is producing new exorcists the world over with his International School of Exorcism.3 His online institution teaches courses in curse breaking and procedures for casting out demons.
Larson’s sermons are notoriously hellfire and brimstone. The first part involved readings from Larson’s book, the recitation of prayers, and singing of hymns; all interspersed with his demands that we buy his books and DVDs for our salvation. There is no greater persuasion technique than the threat of Hell. Then Larson announced that it was time to “rebuke the devil”, and ordered us to recall our worst pain and hurt in life. Apparently, this would invoke our demons, and Larson beseeched us to “let them take over.”
A woman sitting in front of me was so eager to be exorcised that she began growling immediately; possessed by the demon of over-acting. Larson and his mini-me Exorcists performed a series of quickie exorcisms amidst the crowd. The exorcized seem to be role-playing; they relished the attention from Larson, his cronies and the crowd, and appeared to enjoy the cathartic effects of the ritual. But the placebo effect doesn’t work for all complaints…
As always, Larson chooses the most histrionic performer to be the main spectacle for his show. He drags that individual in front of the audience, and performs a full exorcism center-stage. At this event the victim was Ben, a young alcoholic man with other possible issues surrounding his sexuality (which he whispered in Larson’s ear). He had been dragged to the event by his mother. In a Spanish Inquisition-style confession, Larson decided that Ben was host to a number of demons, including “hate” and “Belial”, and that he is the unwitting victim of a seven-generation curse incited by…murder!
There is no green pea soup, but Larson’s exorcisms are extremely violent and distressing events. Ben was held forcibly by three assistants as others murmured prayers over him. Larson jabbed his crucifix into Ben’s chest and slapped him around the head with a copy of the Bible as he fired abuse at the “demons”. Then Larson insisted his daughter take over the exorcism. She did a shabby job of emulating her father, snapping at Ben in her high-pitched voice, and asking daddy, “What was the demon’s name again?”
Ben was shaking, sweating and sobbing throughout the fifteen-minute exorcism. And as you and I know, he was not “cured” of his addiction. He probably felt like a stiff drink straight after the ordeal. Larson also had a cameraman filming the event, to whom he issued constant instructions on how to get the best angles. Of course, he doesn’t care about the welfare of his flock.
Larson claims to cast out demons and sins, but like many a hypocritical pastor, he is clearly not averse to breaking commandments and sinning himself. Despite his campaign to “Do What Jesus Did”, Larson’s position seems to be: do as I say, not as I do.
Greed: Larson’s events are billed as “free”, although they are live infomercials for his books, DVDs, anointed crucifixes, and face-to-face or Skype “personal encounters” which cost thousands of dollars. The seminar began at 7pm and finished at midnight, and so Larson’s approach is to wear down the attendees over the course of the night with continual badgering for donations and sales, all under guise of God. We received envelopes that said “Important Message Inside”. This “important message” was a plea for three or four-figure monthly “gifts” to his Spiritual Freedom Church.
Wrath: As noted above, Larson’s exorcisms are violent events where the victims are physically restrained and assaulted, and psychologically abused. Furthermore, former staff members report that Larson is controlling and abusive, while his Spiritual Freedom Church has a high turnover of staff.
Lust: Larson has had affairs with several of his secretaries and assistants, although he has the nerve to offer marital counseling services.4 His teaches his audience to develop a victim mentality, and to blame demons for the problems in their lives. Therefore, sexual indiscretions are the work of Jezebel.
What demon do I face the most? The answer is easy -- JEZEBEL. But I've never experienced the attack of this demon like right now. Jezebel is trying to destroy me in many ways, and I want to warn you--LOOK OUT! This demon from the Pit of Hell is bloodthirsty, rampant, and she's on the prowl for victims!!!5
Larson compiled his juiciest Jezebel encounters into the saucy DVD, “Casting out Jezebel.” And he’s happy to sell the sexuality of his own daughter, inviting attendees to have their photo taken “with the teenage exorcists…when your wife’s in the restroom.”
Pride: Larson has appeared on Oprah, Anderson Cooper, A Current Affair, Dr Phil, and dozens of other television shows. In 2008 he filmed the reality television show “The Real Exorcist” for the SyFy Channel. As he told us, it is set to be re-aired soon. Larson’s ego is bigger than his Bible, and his sensationalist seminars are just a stage for the Bob Larson show. As he asked Ben before the exorcism:
“Do you know anything about me, Ben? Do you know who I am?”
“No!” cried a terrified Ben.
“I am… The Real Exorcist!” Larson said, at which the room burst into applause and cheers.
Dr. Karen Stollznow is a linguist, author, skeptical paranormal investigator and a research fellow for the James Randi Foundation. You can follow Karen on Twitter here.
1. Bob Larson. http://www.boblarson.org/html/bob.html
2. The Official Teenage Exorcist website. http://www.teenageexorcists.com/
3. Bob Larson’s International School of Exorcism http://www.boblarson.org/html/school_of_exorcism.html
4. Bob Larson’s Pre-Marital Encounter. http://www.boblarson.org/pm.pdf
5. Bob Larson. Jezebel Attack http://www.boblarson.org/html/jezebel_attack.html