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A few years ago, I came across a book called Beware the Night by Ralph Sarchie, an NYPD veteran and demonologist who spent the greater part of the 90s helping people burdened by spiritual oppression work their way back into the grace of God. Although I never considered myself to be religious and have a particular fondness for the kind of movies that could make a grown man shit himself, I was so scared of the “true-life” accounts I read that I needed to seek out answers to the burning questions Sarchie's book presented: Is my soul at risk? Do I even have a soul?
Then I found Jim Dooley, a former NYPD captain who works with Sarchie. I reached out to him and asked if I could tag along on one of his house calls to see how a real exorcism went down, but my request was immediately denied because he worried I might be some kind of satanic probe. But following a long phone interview where he grilled me about my past—if I had ever had an abortion (since the Devil loves those), played with a Ouija board, or worshiped Satan—he finally agreed to meet with me.
The interview that follows is from May 2011. For various reasons, we were unable to run the interview at the time, but now that it's Easter, one of the busiest times of the year for demonologists, I decided to follow up with Dooley and ask if I could post the transcript. Although it had been years since we last spoke, he kindly agreed and reminded me that the Devil is an evergreen topic. To this day, he still has a client that is being raped by the unknown nightly—I clearly didn't need to ask Dooley any additional questions. The world is as fucked up as it was when we last spoke in 2011.
VICE: How long were you a cop?
Jim Dooley: A little over 23 years. I retired as a captain.
How did you get into demonology? Are there other cops who investigate the paranormal in their spare time?
No, there aren’t unfortunately—well, other than Ralph Sarchie. I really didn’t want to do it at first, but then a lot my colleagues started confiding in me that things were happening. One of them, who I consider to be very trustworthy, claimed that he was levitated to the ceiling on numerous occasions, and no one believed him. I advised him to get some holy water, salts, and to say some prayers so he could get himself in spiritual order. He did, and it stopped. It was nice that I was able to give him what I thought was simplistic advice and to see it actually work. So now I go on websites like Real Ghost Stories to offer help to others. I’m a fairly traditional Catholic, however, I know my limitations as a maligner—I don’t do exorcisms of people, only places. If a spirit has attached itself to a person I have to call one of the priests in my society. They’d need to get permission from a bishop, and unfortunately the Church doesn’t want to get involved with stuff like that these days.
The Church is trying to distance itself from exorcisms?
A lot of times the problem is psychological, not spiritual, and because of that I think the Church is afraid of embarrassment. They know the media will mock them.
How can you differentiate psychological problems from spiritual problems?
It can be difficult. Angelic disturbances can often piggyback as real psychological pathology, and on the other hand, a person who is mentally ill can have a spiritual accomplice—the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The manifestations in each individual case may differ, but the root evil is always the same.
Are the people who reach out to you for help generally religious?
I get calls from everyone, but the reported attacks are clearly on Catholics. The Devil hates the Catholic Church, and the name he fears most is Mary. Even a glance from her causes more fear than a person saying the name of St. Michael.
What are these people doing to become so vulnerable to spiritual attacks?
Most of the time it’s because of children dabbling in the occult—tarot cards, Ouija boards, Santeria, palmistry, astrology, séances. Anytime you’re trying to retain knowledge or power from a source other than the Bible or the holy sacraments, it comes with a major price tag. I recently helped a woman who claimed she was talking to her guardian angel and it told her she didn’t have to go to confession. This immediately set off a red flag—while I felt it could be some type of seraphim, I was confident it wasn’t one of the good guys. About a month later my theory was proven when she said it appeared to her in the form of an angel with hooves for feet.
How did they start talking?
Sometimes it just happens—they like to play head games, and very often they’ll appear to you in mysterious ways like in a mirror. All of the deception is to depress you. The ultimate goal of a demon is to lead someone to suicide. If you kill yourself intentionally, you’ve committed a mortal sin, and all they want is your damnation. They want you to be condemned to hell.
On ghost shows they always use a lot of equipment to pick up on energies. What is that all about, and do you carry any of that stuff?
I just bring my sacramentals—a cross and blessed salt. You can use tools but the ghost chasers on TV aren’t spiritual—all they can do is prove to you that you’re not crazy by showing you something is real. I actually haven’t seen a lot of things, and thank God. I prefer it that way.
Are there specific prayers you recite during your visits?
I recite Pope Leo XIII's prayer of exorcism, which is very effective and can be used by all Catholics in times when devilish mischief is suspected. I also hang medals like the miraculous medal of Saint Catherine Labouré on the walls of the house or bury them around the property. The family may not know they’re there, but if it’s a true haunting, their visitors will sense them from a mile away. This is good for a demonic harassment, but if it goes untreated, it can develop into oppression.
How often do you refer people to the Church for possession?
I have a few times, but 70 percent of the cases can be healed by ordinary means of salvation, attending mass, communion, and going to confession. A person has to be diligent and avoid what objectively might be a sinful lifestyle—alcohol or drug abuse, homosexuality, or promiscuity weakens your spiritual armor.
Tell me about some of the cases you’re working on now.
I’m currently helping a man in Long Island who is being beaten and burned nearly 20 hours of every day by some invisible force. We don’t know how it all began—it might have started when he found some questionable items in his basement that were left behind by the previous tenant, or it’s possible that his ex-girlfriend is into the occult now and sending negative energy his way. He’s a really nice guy, but this has been going on for a year and he’s blamed me for taking so long to figure it out. I have to keep telling him this will be cured in God’s time. It’s not up to me, and in my opinion he hasn’t really done much to help himself out of this situation anyway.
It’s easy to be angry when you’re trying to fight something you can’t see.
Yeah, what do you do if you’re a woman and you’re being penetrated vaginally or anally by an unknown force? You think you’re going out of your mind! I have one client who is a former satanic high priestess.
Do a lot of Satanists reach out to you?
Many of them actually kill themselves before they get to that point. A very powerful high-ranking lieutenant of Satan is violating the woman I’m helping now, about two to three times a week. She’s tried to kill herself twice, but I don’t think she is possessed—this is more of a transient possession. There was an instance where we were exchanging emails recently and she said she was starting to feel a lot of anger welling up inside of her body. A minute later I received another message saying, “You can’t help her. She belongs to us. You and your prayers are a joke. You wait and see.” There was also a time during one of our meetings where this entity actually materialized; I pulled the so-called snake out of her head and dragged it across the floor as she screamed out, “Saint Michael, help me!” She claimed it worked and she saw the demon vanish.
But things are still happening, right? What’s keeping it around?
She’s finally able to pray the rosary and say the name Jesus, so that’s a step in the right direction, but she needs to go to confession. The Devil is a legalist, and considering her past and the fact that she invited him in, he’s going to exercise his right to stay.
Is it actually possible for someone, via Ouija board or psychic medium, to converse with a spirit that doesn’t necessarily have malicious intentions?
No. The Bible strictly forbids necromancy, which is attempting to contact the dead. Sometimes our lord does permit holy souls to weakly manifest themselves, but it’s usually immediately after death, if a loved one is in deep mourning over their passing. But it’s always something small like the flickering of a light bulb, because human souls aren’t powerful enough.
How can you tell the difference between harmless, leftover spiritual energy and these demonic forces?
If it involves some kind of sexual impurity, heavy drug use, or is leading into oblivion, it’s not good—even seeing something as harmless as a floating orb is a bad sign. The Devil uses the same tricks over and over again to deceive us. It’s just our own stupidity and arrogance that causes us to misinterpret them.
Have any of the negative spirits you’ve dealt with ever attached themselves to you at work?
Why don’t you want to talk about it?
Because by acknowledging this I’m putting myself at greater risk.
Just trust me.
When I contacted you, you asked me a lot of questions to see if I was some kind of satanic probe. What do you think people want from you?
I think they want to know how I know what I know. Who trained me, how I got into this field, how many of us are involved, how my team operates. I don’t give that away.
How could that benefit anyone?
It depends on what they’re looking to do. Maybe a phony call one day trying to make fun of us or sacrifice us during one of their ceremonies. That would require a lot of planning, but it’s still possible.
You said you are getting a lot of calls right now. What kind of situations are you seeing?
Dark shadows, intrusive thoughts, thoughts of suicide, depression, scratches at night, poundings, whisperings, and some are worse, like people being physically assaulted. The girl we’ve been speaking about often wakes up with scratches on her body and recently awoke with a razor blade in her hand; she has no idea how it got there.
Do you ever bring people with you on house visits as spiritual backup?
Anyone you bring becomes a target. That’s why I go to confession to make sure my soul is in a good place—if possible, even the very same day.
So even though you’re spiritually fit you're a target now just because of your profession?
Yes, and now so are you.
What? Why? Just by asking you about it?
Yes. You’re on the Devil’s radar now. You know things about him he doesn’t want you to know.
So these dark forces can now manipulate my thoughts and read my mind?
There is disagreement among priests and theologians about whether they can read minds. I’m not 100 percent sure, but they understand us better than we think—they’ve been studying us since Adam and Eve.
That all sounds really scary.
It’s a lot to think about, right?
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