TEoD: Chapter 48: Tubular Bells
Well, bet you didn’t expect this in a Michael Murphy book, but Tim Lahaye is about to go full-on Exorcist here.
Yeah, like that.
It’s time for Our Heroes to visit the next fake healer, tagging along with the hapless Clyde. They all show up at a turn-of-the-last-century farmhouse on the outskirts of town, and they all feel “a little apprehension,” mostly because the house is, yanno, old and stuff, and looks like it needs a fresh coat of paint and there are curtains in the windows and it’s dusk (no, seriously, these are the reasons).
Carlotta, Madame Estelle’s assistant, lets them in, and we know she’s evil because “her face seemed more wrinkled than normal for someone her age” and she’s dressed like a movie gypsy.
No, not THAT gypsy.
THAT kind of gypsy.
They join some other people who are apparently there to be healed and nobody introduces themselves and “Murphy couldn’t tell if they were being rude or if they were embarrassed to be seen there.”
Dude, you’re not introducing yourself, either! Rude much?
Murphy’s rudeness and utter lack of basic consideration for others becomes a theme for this chapter, if not the entire series: Madame Estelle comes in, and she’s also dressed like a gypsy and wears heavy makeup.
For a moment Murphy almost laughed, she looked so ridiculous, but he restrained himself.
Wow. What a gentleman, eh? What a loving Christian.
Immediately, and I mean frakking immediately, Estelle…
…sorry, Estelle calls out Murphy and Wagoner as unbelievers. Tellingly, she looks at Murphy with “fear” and at Wagoner with “anger.” Because Murphy has to be the most powerful manly man in the room at any given moment, you see, so Michael Murphy is someone to be feared by this false healer, but she’s just kinda annoyed that the MINISTER OF GOD HIMSELF is there.
Estelle demands that Murphy and Wagoner leave.
Murphy did not budge. He did not like being challenged in public…
Um. You are not in public, Murph. You are in Estelle’s own home, so she has every right to ask you to leave, for any reason or for no reason at all.
By the way, this whole doesn’t-like-being-challenged thing is not an attractive trait. Not for any hero, in general, let alone one who is a professor. Murphy teaches college students, and it seems natural that he would be challenged and questioned by snot-nosed kids from time to time. One sign of a good professor is one who can roll with such a punch and still maintain control of the classroom.
So Murphy (and Wagoner and Clyde, not that they matter), stick around and Murphy questions Estelle about whether her healing powers are “by the name of Jesus.” This causes Estelle to pull some possessed-Regan shit, screeching and slapping her own head on the table and looking like “a wild animal that was in some kind of trance.”
See lots of animals in trances, do you, Bob Phillips?
Then Estelle starts to yell in a man’s voice, and then she flips the table.
No, seriously, she does an actual Real Housewives table flip. From this, and from speaking in a deeper voice, Wagoner cleverly deduces that “This is for real!”
Because speaking in a deep voice and flipping a table can only mean one thing: this poor woman is actually possessed by a real, actual demon.
And then she demonstrates her demonic powers even further by throwing a chair at the guys (the other guests have fled, unnamed and unmissed).
Wagoner pulls out his little pocket Bible and together with Murphy, they proceed to rip off The Exorcist in earnest, with a lot of “in the name of Jesus” and just being kinda rude and pushy.
I’ll digress here, because this whole scene is so beat for beat The Exorcist that it can’t not be intentional. One thing I’ve always said about Tim LaHaye is that it always felt like he had way more animosity towards Catholics than towards atheists. The Exorcist was written by a Catholic, made with input from the Catholic Church, and portrays said Church as a helpful organization, necessary in the universal struggle of good vs. evil. So this bit with Murphy feels like a repudiation of the great struggle of The Exorcist.
Because Murphy’s exorcism works immediately, which I guess shows us that is Michael Murphy a much bigger bad-ass than those pansy-ass priests, Karras and Merrin, because it took them multiple tries to save Regan McNeil, and the ordeal ultimately cost both men their lives. Also, Murphy is a layman with no formal affiliation with his church other than being the minister’s buddy. The Exorcist needed actual trained men of the cloth to do a proper exorcism. Hilariously, here, Wagoner, the actual trained minister, only “join[s] in,” providing the assist to Murphy. And we are told explicitly that this is the first try at an exorcism for both Murphy and Wagoner, and of course they succeed instantly, whereas in The Exorcist, Father Merrin was a very experienced exorcist with a lifetime of experience and it still ended up killing him.
(Then again, Phillips doesn’t exactly sell the threat: Estelle and her demon (“Deception,” if you care), seem kinda wussy in comparison to Pazuzu-possessed Regan. Possessed Regan exhibits supernatural powers and actually kills a man. Possessed Estelle…um, tosses some furniture around.)
There is also a fair amount of hypocrisy here, because I absolutely believe that the success of the cultural icon that is The Exorcist created an environment where other religious horror stories like the Left Behind series could flourish.
So, yeah, RTCs can perform exorcisms at the drop of a hat, with no training whatsoever, and it’s all over in a matter of seconds. Murphy, a much more awesome Christian than those silly ole priests, is just fine and dandy, and minister Wagoner is merely a bit shaken:
“I don’t think I’d ever like to do that again. It was like coming up to the edge of darkness and facing the devil.”
WE HAVE A TITLE
Estelle, demon gone, comes to, as it were, and it turns out that, unlike Regan McNeil, she has pretty good memory of her possession, and how, like Regan, she was open to it because of minor dealings with the occult, like tarot cards and books. Hilariously, it seems that she did do some healing of people, so if I was Carl right now, I’d feel a little bitter. But she wants to know “what just happened to me,” and then we cut and the chapter ends, because for once, we’re not going to have Michael Murphy pontificate on someone else’s experiences.