Meet the exorcist schoolgirls who spend their time casting out demons worldwide | Mail Online
‘We're not like normal teenagers': Meet the exorcist schoolgirls who spend their time casting out DEMONS around the world
By Jeff Maysh
- Brynne Larson, 16, is one of many newly-qualified teenage demon slayers
- Reverend Bob Larson of Spiritual Freedom Churches runs exorcist school
- No set protocol for exorcisms but girls carry a Bible, holy water and a cross
Last updated at 8:18 AM on 11th August 2011
The five teenage girls might look like they’re in a normal class, eagerly reading their textbooks and answering their teacher’s questions diligently.
But the textbooks are Bibles and the girls all have crosses instead of protractors, as they train to become exorcists - real exorcists who fight demons, curses and evil spells.
‘People do look a bit surprised when I arrive,’ admits graduate exorcist Brynne Larson. ‘When people call for an exorcist, they don’t picture a 16-year-old high school girl.’
Bible and cross: Savannah Shurkenback, 19, left, and Brynne Larson, 16, are two teenage exorcists who fight demons, curses and evil spells
But Brynne, from Phoenix, Arizona, is one of a new breed of qualified teenage demon slayers, who answered a call when the Church made the admission of there being a worldwide exorcist shortage.
But despite drastic efforts, supply has still not met demand for the controversial ceremony.
The Vatican’s chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, has revealed that he alone has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession.
‘The Church just can’t keep up with demand. But I have 100 teams of trained exorcists working all over the world, and outbreaks of demonic possession are getting out of control. Our phone lines are ringing constantly - we receive up to 1,000 individual requests monthly, and we travel to countries like Africa, Ukraine, England and even Australia'
Reverend Bob Larson
Spiritual Freedom Churches International
So if the forces of darkness start getting the upper hand, who should you call? Evangelist Reverend Bob Larson of Spiritual Freedom Churches International - and his remarkable school for exorcists.
‘Think of it more of an exorcist franchise,’ Rev Larson tells MailOnline exclusively.
‘The Church just can’t keep up with demand. But I have 100 teams of trained exorcists working all over the world, and outbreaks of demonic possession are getting out of control.
‘Our phone lines are ringing constantly - we receive up to 1,000 individual requests monthly, and we travel to countries like Africa, Ukraine, England and even Australia.’
But while his teams include exorcists aged up to 70, one group of his protégées are causing waves in the religious community. They are teenage girls.
Savannah Scherkenback, 19, and her sister Tess, 16, are Rev Larson’s latest graduates from his school for exorcists.
‘We have found that our female, teenage exorcists are particularly effective at curing the possessed,’ says Rev Larson, whose daughter Brynne is a supernaturally talented exorcist.
Teenage exorcists: Savannah Schurkenback, Jess Shurkenback, Christina Massih, Melanie Massih and Brynne Larson stand brandishing their Bibles and silver crosses
Highly experienced in casting out demons, saving souls, and banishing evil spirits to hell, she is also a student who enjoys styling her hair, shopping and meeting her friends at Starbucks.
Those friends include trainee undergraduate exorcists, Melanie Massih, 16, her sister Christina, 15, also students at Rev Larson’s exorcist school.
They may love hanging out like normal teenagers, but they don’t watch TV like the rest of us.
‘I think Harry Potter and Twilight are instigators of evil,’ Savannah says. ‘They nullify morality and just serve to hook people in with evil.
‘I don’t watch any television at all. I’m much too busy praying and fighting the devil.’
And so on a hot Sunday afternoon, inside a modest three-star hotel in the middle of arid Scottsdale, Arizona, the blinds are mysteriously drawn around a small conference hall, and Rev Larson begins today’s class.
Our trainee exorcists may look to casual observers more like X Factor contestants than exorcists, but this is a serious matter.
The topic is exorcism - the use of prayer to remove the devil or demonic spirits – which has its roots in early Christianity, and is described by the church as ‘the act of driving out, or warding off, demons who infest a person or place’.
Rev Larson is quick to remind his pupils of the tell-tale signs of demonic possession.
‘Speaking a language that the person has never learned,’ he preaches, ‘having a supernatural strength, having a violent aversion to God, the cross and a hatred of holy water.’
While exorcisms have been taught and carried out since the start of the Catholic Church, there has never been a greater demand than today, and for the teenage trainees of the Exorcist school, today’s class is a matter of life and death.
This afternoon, a handwritten sign outside the conference hall reads: ‘Pre-Deliverance Class 4:00pm. Personal ministry by appointment.’
The Pre-deliverance classes are a beginner’s lesson, promising everything you need to know about demons and exorcism.
Cross: Evangelist Reverend Bob Larson of Spiritual Freedom Churches International has an exorcist school
The words ‘Satan,’ ‘Beelzebub’, and ‘Lucifer’ hang in the electrically conditioned air, while the temperature is set to ‘spine-chilling’.
‘There are two parts to an exorcism,’ explains graduate Tess, who clutches an attractive, red leather-bound Bible.
‘I think Harry Potter and Twilight are instigators of evil. They nullify morality and just serve to hook people in with evil. I don’t watch any television at all. I’m much too busy praying and fighting the devil'
Savannah Scherkenback, 19, graduate of Rev Larson's exorcist school
‘Firstly, you must deal with inner healing, to get rid of traumatic experiences from your childhood and beyond, and secondly, deliverance from demons.’
To do this, the girls are taught ‘curse-breaking’: The more experienced exorcists Savannah and Brynne will teach Christina and Melanie how to read from a list of demons, designed to provoke the ‘demon within’, when chanted aloud to possessed folk.
Tess practices reading from the list of curses. ‘Death,’ she says, ominously, raising an eyebrow to the room. ‘Cancer.’ She pauses, dramatically. ‘Murder.’
It is normally after she says ‘murder’, that all hell breaks loose, she says. ‘Many belch on hearing the words, or start weeping,’ she whispers.
‘One woman collapsed and started convulsing, while another man started choking once. I remember I felt excited the first time. “This is it,” I thought to myself.’ She regains her composure, tosses her beautiful bangs from her face and finishes the reading: ‘I break off that curse of murder. Be gone.’
Armed: Jess Shurkenback, 16, left, and Melanie Massih, 16, want to relieve a worldwide shortage of exorcists
While there is no set protocol for each exorcism, the girls carry with them a basic exorcism tool kit: a Bible, holy water and a cross. Once they reach their possessed person, they will sit them down in a chair, while two strong males hold them down. ‘It can be dangerous,’ admits Brynne.
‘I have performed exorcisms on 300lbs, 6’5” men - and they can get violent,’ she says.
Next the girl will begin reading from the Bible. Once they have raised the devil, they will instruct it to leave, and often the spirit won’t go quietly.
The eyes bulge, the voice becomes a monstrous growl, and then the snarling begins. ‘It’s not unusual to be sworn at, spat at, I’ve even seen projectile vomit,’ says Savannah, firmly.
Rev Larson has had his fair share of evil demons, he says.
‘Last week, I worked with a Uruguayan man, who had grown up being abused by his evil mother. He had the word “cerdo” tattooed on his forearm, meaning “swine”, and he was possessed by a violent demon of murder.’
‘The man’s mother begged Rev Larson for help. She said: “Please help him, before he kills someone”. It was a dramatic battle, but we got rid of the pig demon within him.’
In the last month Rev Larson and his team has rid a wife of an evil curse, after she was cursed by a Nigerian witchdoctor over the Internet that ‘dark demons would attack her in sleep’.
They also cured a young woman who had been raised in a satanic cult, freeing her of demons who instructed her to commit suicide.
And it’s no surprise Rev Larson’s daughter Brynne got into the business. ‘Every day I’d come home from work and she’d ask: “What demons did you find today, Daddy?”’
Brynne began to travel the world with her exorcist father when she just a child, but after years of watching dad performing exorcisms to large crowds at seminars around the world, it wouldn’t be long before it was her turn.
‘There are two parts to an exorcism. Firstly, you must deal with inner healing, to get rid of traumatic experiences from your childhood and beyond, and secondly, deliverance from demons'
Tess Scherkenback, 16, graduate of Rev Larson's exorcist school
‘I performed my first exorcism aged 13, in Africa, on a man possessed by terrible demons,’ she tells MailOnline.
Rev Bob Larson had arrived in deepest Africa to perform an exorcism seminar to a small town rocked with demonic possessions and witchcraft.
In a hot, squalid community hall, with a standing room only crowd of 3,000 locals, a volunteer from the village who claimed he was possessed came to the stage.
‘He was possessed with the demon of murder,’ says Rev Larson. ‘He screamed the house down when we touched the Bible on his head.’
It was then that Rev Larson called forward his petite, red-headed daughter from the back of the hall. There was an audible gasp. The man lurched back in his seat at the very sight of Brynne.
She took out her Bible, and he screamed and convulsed in agony, like a scene from a horror movie.
‘I shouted: “Go to the pits of hell!” and the man screamed even louder,’ she recalls. ‘Then I said: “Out! In the name of God!” and I cast the demon asunder.’
As the demon left him, the man burst into grateful tears, and the crowd erupted into cheers. Brynne had finally become an exorcist - and she remembers how she felt: ‘Exhilarated!’
Shortage solution: Rev Larson teaches exorcism to teenagers and holds classes at his church
Since then, the schoolgirl has performed many more successful exorcisms, but today admits the most important exorcism she ever performed was on her best friend, when they were both 15.
‘She was complaining of terrible headaches, and had all the symptoms of having demons.’
Like Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body, Brynne’s friend was putting up with high school while possessed by evil demons.
‘So Tess and I took her privately, and performed an exorcism. We confronted her demons, and chanted: “She is a child of God”, before instructing her demons, “go to the pit of hell”.’
But there’s no script, insists Tess. ‘With my friend, she was getting a reaction from the curse-breaking. “You have to leave,” I said to the demon, and weirdly, she nodded. It was the demon moving her body.’
Afterwards, Brynne’s friend started crying, claiming she had been relieved of her evil problem. Savannah herself had been exorcised before joining the school.
‘When I was about 18, I was incredibly troubled,’ says the perfect student, who says she suffered from extreme depression, sickness, and was crippled by bad knees.
‘There was something moving around inside of me - I had an awful headache and I felt feel sick to my stomach,’ she says.
But after baffling doctors who could find nothing medically wrong with her, Savannah’s Christian parents took her to the local ministry.
There, home-schooled Savannah was given a deliverance session, where she claims an evil spirit was cast from her. ‘I was relieved I knew the answer,’ she says, with certainty. ‘I was possessed.’
Protégées: Rev Larson's teams include exorcists aged up to 70 - but it's the teenage girls who are causing waves in the religious community
‘My exorcist called out the names of various curses, and whenever certain curses were mentioned, I felt a tingling around my ankles, and a pain in my head. Suddenly I got pains in my eyes, then boom! My demon was gone.’
Savannah claims she was so grateful and amazed at the process that she signed up to become a trainee exorcist herself, along with her sister, Tess. Together, they are home- schooled, and live far removed from the corrupt teenage scene of downtown Phoenix, Arizona.
‘People do look a bit surprised when I arrive. When people call for an exorcist, they don’t picture a 16-year-old high school girl'
Brynne Larson, 16, graduate of Rev Larson's exorcist school
‘A lot of girls my age are into drinking and other pursuits,’ she admits. ‘That’s just not my path.’ During a classroom break, Tess reveals, ‘My proudest moment was when I was 14, and I led my own curse-breaking seminar.
‘As I walked around the room with a Bible and oil to anoint the sufferers, I was really nervous as I was only 14, and because this is a really important rite of passage for an exorcist.’
But not everyone is suitable to become an exorcist. Rev Larson says that to join the class, ‘you must have had a calling from God.
‘It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, but we do find that young women are incredibly good at exorcisms.’
Once you have proved that becoming an exorcist is your God-given path, intensive training can take weeks and possibly months, says Rev Larson.
‘There is a graduation ceremony, when you pass,’ he explains. ‘Graduating exorcists get a special cross, which is specially engraved with words from the Bible we use in the exorcism.
Cross team: Rev Larson stands with (left-right) Savannah Schurkenback, Jess Shurkenback, Christina Massih, Melanie Massih and Brynne Larson
‘They also get a good Bible, then they are officially what we call “in commission”.' Due to the worldwide shortage, Brynne and her young colleagues have become part of a network of full-time, professional exorcists who assist Rev Larson on private and public assignments worldwide.
But the girls aren’t just sent out on their own, knocking on the doors of the possessed. They are, after all, teenage girls. ‘I don’t do house calls yet,’ says Savannah.
‘I have a lot to learn, and it’s very dangerous performing exorcisms. The Bible says that a person who is possessed by the devil can have strength seven times more powerful than one man.’
The girls, however sweet looking, have witnessed more horrors than should ever be asked of teenage girls. ‘I’ve seen people ripping up chairs before,’ says Savannah.
Her sister joins in, wide-eyed. ‘I’ve seen people crawl like snakes on the floor, I’ve seen people hover off the ground.’
Rev Larson explains it’s a team of people who attend private exorcisms.
‘My parents don’t worry,’ says Savannah. ‘They’re Christians and members of the ministry themselves. They are very proud of us.’
However, the girls all agree real exorcisms are nothing like what you’ve seen in movies like The Exorcist, or The Real Exorcism of Emily Rose. ‘Hollywood sensationalises things,’ says Savannah.
‘But the scenes where the people convulse - that’s real. When you have demonic possession, the demon has what we call a legal right to possess your body. You must break the curse.
‘When we read aloud the words “murder” or “death”, they will yawn. Or maybe belch disgustingly. The demon shows itself.
‘It’s quite easy to tell the difference between genuine cases of possession, and simple cases of schizophrenia or learning difficulties,’ she explains.
‘Although the devil can work in mysterious ways to disguise itself,’ she adds, ominously.
Before Rev Larson and his team can go to work, a 12-page psychological profile must be completed, just to make sure the subject is not ‘just mental’.
Unreal: The girls all agree real exorcisms are nothing like what you may have seen in films such as The Exorcist, pictured, as they are 'sensationalised' by Hollywood
‘The answers vary but common responses to questions are “I see dark shadows” or “I have scratches all over my body”,’ says Rev Larson. ‘Exorcism is not easy and only the trained can do it properly.’
He also explains there is no charge for the service, but says that people do bring ‘an offering’ to seminars held by his exorcists.
‘If it’s an emergency and my team has to travel across the country, or even across the world, we can run up expenses of perhaps $3,000 or $4,000. And we always require an advance appointment.’
‘I don’t do house calls yet. I have a lot to learn, and it’s very dangerous performing exorcisms. The Bible says that a person who is possessed by the devil can have strength seven times more powerful than one man'
Savannah Scherkenback, 19, graduate of Rev Larson's exorcist school
But for his team of teenage exorcists, dedication to the job is paramount. ‘We have about 100 teams, working in teams of five to ten people,’ Rev Larson explains.
‘Sometimes we will have someone complain that their home is haunted, or worse, that there is a demonic possession in the family.
‘But most often we take appointments at churches, apartments or even offices. We do private exorcisms or we do seminars where we can work en masse.
‘Last month I did nine in total, casting out demons,’ says Brynne. ‘I’m not like normal teenagers.’
But for Brynne, who like all of the Reverend’s young exorcists, is a home-schooled, teetotal teenager, her life, she insists is nothing but exciting.
‘We have travelled all over the world performing exorcisms. I have been to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and even the Bahamas, saving souls along the way.’
And Brynne is defiantly single, admitting: ‘I have never had a boyfriend, but I consider myself lucky - I don’t have many of the demons that can be associated with obsession, or desire.’
‘I want to one day get married and have children, for God says in the Bible that we should marry. But while there are people that need exorcisms, people who need help - that is all I’m interested in.’
GRADUATE PROFILE: SAVANNAH
Savannah Scherkenback, 19, is one of Rev Larson’s latest graduates from his school for exorcists. Here is how her week pans out...
‘I’m 19 years old and I live for the ministry. I’m in college and that’s hard because I’m devoted to the church.
'On Sunday I go to church 9am to 1pm, then I go home for lunch. Then I’m back at the church again at 9pm.
'Monday I’m at college, but I work with three girls at my college who I help with their demons.
'Tuesday it’s homework and maybe coffee with my friends.
'Then Thursday I’m at school, and I work with a youth group of teenagers, teaching them the ways of the ministry.
'Friday and Saturday I spend all my time at the church, and doing exorcisms where needed.'
LETTERS & EMAILS FROM CLIENTS
Below is a selection of genuine calls for help sent to Reverend Bob Larson:
CASE STUDY: 'GET UP, "MURDER"!'
- ‘My life is a living hell. I practice the occult every night with Lucifer. I signed a pact in my blood and buried it with real human bones. My fingers make the shape of claws. I wake up at night growling. I throw up if I go to church. PLEASE HELP ME!!!!!!!’ ('Lori')
- ‘I grew up in Satanism. I have a multitude of physical and sexual abuse. I want to die. Can you help me?’ (Name withheld)
- ‘I have suicidal thoughts and dreams of hurting others. I am fighting something deep within me. Your show forced me to look at the possibility of having a demon inside me.’ ('Adam')
- ‘I have tried to kill myself and have homicidal thoughts. I even made a list of people I want to kill. I really need some answers.’ (‘Laura’)
Choon Kim attended one of Reverend Bob Larson’s seminars for an exorcism.
The 33-year-old, who says she was sexually abused by a family friend as a child, explains that demons had tormented her for years.
‘Rage would come out of my being,’ she says. ‘I hated myself, I was really angry inside me.’
During her exorcism, she cried in pain, as Rev Larson pressed the Bible onto her forehead.
‘Who are you? Your name?’ he demanded.
‘Murder,' they say the demon answered.
‘Get up, "murder"!’ Rev Larson shouted, before renounced the demon - and Choon was cured.
'FIVE SIGNS OF POSSESSION'
- Feeling suicidal/ self harming
‘Many of the demons we encounter encourage people to hurt themselves,’ says Rev Larson. ‘They can drive you to suicide if they’re not dealt with.
- Becoming sensitive to religious material
'The possessed will vomit if they go to a church. They will scream if they come into contact with holy water,’ says Rev Larson. The possessed will reportedly not be able to look at statues of Christ.
- Harbouring feelings of murder
Have you suddenly started to feel intense hatred towards colleagues or even family members? It may be a demon inside of you, says Rev Larson. ‘One of the most common demons is called “murder”.’
- Sickness/ Tiredness
Having a demon within you is a tiring game. Sleeplessness, anxiety and headaches are common complaints, along with less subtle symptoms like levitation and a 360-degree spinning head.
- Speaking in a foreign tongue
The possessed have been known to suddenly start speaking in Latin, Spanish, or even Italian, explains Rev Larson. Watch out for a deepening voice too, he says. ‘I’ve heard that voice all too often. It’s deep and growling.’