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on March 12, 2017
After reading this book, I now have a better understanding of what it takes to be an Exorcist and the price one pays in being an Exorcist. If you're interested in parapsychology, theology, or just curious, this is the book to read.
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on November 25, 2017
SPOILERS:
I don't even know how to describe this book. Wow, his writing does drag on a bit and is very dramatic. The stories are so bizarre along with the demon's hoaky "names" did he do that so as not to reveal their real names? I mean what demon says its name is Tortoise? It was very creepy how each person was harassed by the demon in order for them to open up and allow it in. This was a strange book, I've read several in this genre including The Rite (that's a good one!) this is just so far out. I did like how he revealed astroplaning as a demonic trick and also the man who thought he was a woman, interesting and makes sense. They're always trying to trick us.
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on November 21, 2017
This book was recommended to me, and I am very thankful for his recommendation! This is an extraordinary and well written book. Malachi Martin sheds light to the horrors of demonic possession in a very intellectual, informative and personal manner that connected me to the victims and opened my eyes. I strongly recommend this book.
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on December 12, 2016
Malachi Martin (a Jesuit Priest), took a very scholarly approach to this very complicated subject. Whether there is an evil presence in this world or not is a subject long debated within and outside the Catholic Church and Martin tackles this issue head on. The cases that he discusses certainly cause one to pause and consider how "demonic possession" in these instances could be denied. And, pushing the reader to think about evil and its manifestations is clearly a major reason for his writing the book. While he believes in the existence of the devil, he is enough of a scholar to discuss in his preface how the Catholic Church has omitted the rite of exorcism, or casting out of demons, from routine training of individuals entering the priesthood, implying that the Church may be taking more of a 21st century view on the subject of Satan. Regardless of how the reader views this subject, the book is fascinating and well written and will hold the reader's attention (and may even cause him or her to occasionally look over their shoulder on dark, rainy nights)!
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on February 18, 2011
My interest in exorcism was recently re-ignited by a viewing of the film, "The Rite," which led me to the book of the same name and the true circumstances behind the story, and on to a collection of other volumes on the subject. While reading "Hostage to the Devil" I became aware that this book, originally published in the '70s, was the source of a chilling story one of my brothers' friends had told me twenty years ago: the story of the ill-fated "Jamsie" (subject of one of the five cases in Martin's book), an up-and-coming radio broadcaster who was the target of attack by a "familiar" spirit for most of his life. In recounting Jamsie's story, Malachi exhibits a deep appreciation of the life story of the possession victim, demonstrating his theory that possession is a lifelong process that begins at birth and involves-and even affects--one's family, friends, circumstances and choices. In each of the cases presented in this book, a big chunk of the writing is devoted to this background work, revealing the final, necessarily dramatic clash of wills (between the demon, the victim and the exorcist) as a true climax of an epic struggle AND rendering the exorcism itself as truly imperative for the saving of every aspect of the victim: his body, mind, heart and soul. I am a lifelong Catholic, and as more than one reader has commented, I found my faith incredibly strengthened by this book; in fact, I felt called to make a really good Confession after reading about the real hold that unconfessed sins maintain on our souls--and the damage they can cause during the exorcism process, for the victim, the exorcist and the assistants. True, the book bathes one's entire life, the clashes, problems, relationships: in a strange light. Are the complications of our lives just "what happens" when humans--with all of their emotional complexities--interact, or are there other players involved? "Hostage to the Devil" begs the question, at a deep, moving level: What's really going on here?
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VINE VOICEon October 28, 2014
"On the other side of the coin— Lucifer’s side— the belief that he does not exist at all is an enormous advantage that he has never enjoyed to such a great degree. It is the ultimate camouflage. Not to believe in evil is not to be armed against it. To disbelieve is to be disarmed. If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession."
- from Malachi Martin's "Hostage to the Devil"

I've had my eye on this little piece of non-fiction history/horror for a few years. But between us...I was too scared to read it. Religiously-based horror is the sub-genre that freaks me out the most (and when you throw children in the mix!? Forget about it). But for this Halloween season I took a deep breath and jumped in.

I'm not religious, and would consider myself a fairly skeptical individual. I do love fiction and I have a broad capacity to suspend my disbelief. Malachi Martin's novel is a piece of non-fiction - true stories of possession and exorcism.
Martin describes these exclusively contemporary accounts as "dramatic illustrations of the way in which personal and intelligent evil moves cunningly along the lines of contemporary fads and interests, and within the usual bounds of experience of ordinary men and women.” That’s cool. I’ll suspend my disbelief for that!

The five stories of possession (and a sixth smaller story) are bracketed by Martin's analyses of possession, exorcism and their place within contemporary popular history and church culture. His writing is clear and vocabulary large. His writing is infused with a palpable passion and erudite depth.

Malachi describes: "The stories that are told on these occasions are dramatic and painful: strange physical ailments in the possessed; marked mental derangement; obvious repugnance to all signs, symbols, mention, and sight of religious objects, places, people, ceremonies."

Each story runs about 80 pages, though a reader's expectations should be clear: the exorcism itself runs 10-20 pages at the most. The rest of the stories detail the backstory of each victim and each priest. The stories are not connected by character nor time.

I chose to read this book with an 'accepting' mindset. I'm the first to admit, while I'm an iPhone-totin' skeptic and rationalist, I passionately embrace the idea that something supernatural or alien can exist. Martin treats his subject very seriously and addresses the doubters: "Church authorities always insist on thorough examinations of the person brought to them for Exorcism, an examination conducted by qualified medical doctors and psychiatrists."

"Certainly, many who claim to be possessed or whom others so describe are merely the victims of some mental or physical disease. In reading records from times when medical and psychological science did not exist or were quite undeveloped, it is clear that grave mistakes were made. A victim of disseminated sclerosis, for example, was taken to be possessed because of his spastic jerkings and slidings and the shocking agony in spinal column and joints. Until quite recently, the victim of Tourette’s syndrome was the perfect target for the accusation of “Possessed!”: torrents of profanities and obscenities, grunts, barks, curses, yelps, snorts, sniffs, tics, foot stomping, facial contortions all appear suddenly and just as suddenly cease in the subject. Nowadays, Tourette’s syndrome responds to drug treatment, and it seems to be a neurological disease involving a chemical abnormality in the brain. Many people suffering from illnesses and diseases well known to us today such as paranoia, Huntington’s chorea, dyslexia, Parkinson’s disease, or even mere skin diseases (psoriasis, herpes I, for instance), were treated as people “possessed” or at least as “touched” by the Devil."

The book is vivid, without being lewd nor lurid. Martin is graphic, and while the book isn’t dramatically frightening, it’s inherent topic is downright scary. "Violent physical transformations seem sometimes to make the lives of the possessed a kind of hell on earth. Their normal processes of secretion and elimination are saturated with inexplicable wrackings and exaggeration...Reflexes sometimes become sporadic or abnormal, sometimes disappear for a time. Breathing can cease for extended periods. Heartbeats are hard to detect. The face is strangely distorted, sometimes also abnormally tight and smooth without the slightest line or furrow."

“Hostage to the Devil” is extremely well written, thought out and considered, and freely dips into theological considerations across a range of secular and non secular ideas. This book is quite heavy, with numerous pages covering the psychophysical characteristics of each characters relation to the specific event. It's an enjoyable, but not easy, read.

Highly recommended.
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on January 10, 2002
I read 'The Exorcist' back in the seventies. Yeah, I heard things go bump in the night while reading it. But that was a NOVEL. Father Martin presents five case histories right out of the Roman Catholic Church, covering a separate type of spiritual infestation, and each handled in different ways by a different exorcist.

The other reviewers say "Don't read this at night!" Okay, if you're a wussey, girlie-man read it on sunny afternoons. But if you're a risk taker or a glutton for punishment, Go for It and read it at night!

For those of us who had the pleasure to hear Father Martin speak --I caught him several times on the Art Bell radio show---you can hear his pleasant and meticulous Irish brogue as he describes the events of each case. Hearing him on those shows helped me feel the intensity of his faith and revealed his respectful acceptance of the mysterious and supernatural.

For a book about ritual exorcism, Martin doesn't get holier-than-thou. (And I like that.) Oh, to a certain extent he has to be that way in the Battle against Satan. And you gotta take into consideration that this was written over 30 years ago when he was closer to the Church than in his later years. But it's clear that wherever and whenever an exorcism is indicated, it occurs because of a break in faith in God, and a conscious decision to accept something in His place.

This is a fascinating book, whether you are a person of Faith, an UnBeliever, or agnostic. Well worth the spine-tingles and startlings in the dead of night.
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on November 28, 2013
The best and most authoritative book on demonic oppression and possession. Martin pulls no punches and attributes our current human condition and receptivity to demonic influence to our indifference of God's laws and warnings. This is a book (in parts) that you will need to put down because of the detail and graphic narrative. One must keep in mind that these 'exorcisms' are the tape recorded accounts of priests involved in the freeing others from the grip of unholy possession. Leave a light on, although it doesn't help. Once the words worm their way into you mind you can go back and hit an erase button.
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on January 3, 2016
This work is one of a handful of publications that can be considered core reading to better understand human possession. Martin may have been a flawed man in certain respects, but he literally wrote the single best book available regarding possession and the process of exorcism. If you have an honest intellectual interest in the subject, this book is indispensable.
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on August 13, 2017
Malachi Martin never fails to deliver due to his inside knowledge of the bare facts in the religious world of secret beliefs and rites that are none biblical that are found repeatedly in the Roman Catholic Church today as well as their first creed back in 325 A.D.
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