Lars Messerschmidt is Denmark's only exorcist. While you're busy going to school or getting drunk, he's out there fighting Satan and saving people from a life of demonic possession. Though Denmark is officially a Christian country, there has been a massive decrease in true God-fearing believers as of late. This has—at least according to Lars—put Denmark on Satan's top friends list.
Being curious, we sought him out for a chat and he invited us to his apartment in one of Copenhagen's older neighborhoods, Bredgade. The apartment's Gothic architectural style seemed very apt given our topic of conversation. Once up the winding staircase, he sat us in his living room on a low leather couch completely surrounded by religious paraphernalia. He poured us a cup of coffee and we had a little talk about his profession and how he saves folks from a life of fiddling themselves with a crucifix.
VICE: Exorcism. Where to start?
Lars Messerschmidt: I started in the 70s. It was back then when I started noticing more and more physical manifestations of demons. I remember this prayer meeting where a possessed woman was thrown back by something. Then one person yelled, "leave Satan!" It worked. I started seeing a lot of things and that's how I became interested.
How many exorcisms have you performed?
I don't know exactly, but it's in the hundreds. True demonic possession can take years to exorcise. Right now, my calendar is booked because there seems to be more possessions than ever. My Spanish colleagues have told me that there are tons of people in Latin America in need of exorcism. It's because they mix Christianity and their old native beliefs. That particular religious cocktail is demonic.
So how exactly does it work?
People come to me because they are tormented by demons. I usually ask the patients to describe their symptoms and after they answer, I try to make a diagnosis, similar to a doctor. It's important for me to distinguish whether it's a psychological problem, or if the person is actually possessed by a demon.
How can you tell the difference?
We have our ways. We use different tests—like a crucifix or holy water. Demons don't like either. I will ask my clients to hold the crucifix, and often, if they're possessed by a demon, they can't. We also sprinkle holy water on them.
Yesterday, my client couldn't even look at the crucifix. I sprayed holy water on her and she said it burned her skin.
Meaning she was possessed by a demon?
Yes, it's my belief that this was a demon. We didn't finish, but we'll reconvene when she wants to. We'll continue our talk and at one point, I will have to perform an exorcism.
What exactly do you mean by an exorcism?
Exorcism is a special form of prayer, where the exorcist, in the name of God, commands the evil spirit to disappear. Normally, it doesn't want to. So it develops into a struggle, sometimes a physical one. It can literally throw a person to the ground. In such cases, we need some strong men to hold the person down.
Thankfully, it's usually a lot less dramatic. Demons can cause unconsciousness, depending on how powerful they are. Sometimes, the demon will take over and reveal itself mid-sentence. After a couple of minutes of exorcism, the demon will leave and the person will pick up exactly were they left off, not knowing what has happened.
Is there multiple prayers that work? Or just the one?
There are a couple of different ones. I have one in Latin, one in German, and one in Danish. What language I use depends on the situation. It's a well-known fact that demons understand all languages.
That is a well known fact, yes. So what's an exorcist's relationship to the Vatican?
This summer, the Pope approved our organization. It wasn't the profession itself he approved. Exorcists have been around as long as the church itself. To be an exorcist used to be an isolated occupation. That's why this organization was founded: to give exorcists the possibility to meet at a conference once a year. The organization also offers the possibility to educate oneself to become an exorcist, either at a university in the Vatican or in the US. However, first you need to be a priest.
How many members does your organization have?
I know that there were between 250 and 300 participants at the last conference. Everyone was allowed to bring one assistant, so that accounted for some of the guests. There was quite a few doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists.
Really? Did they share your opinions on demons?
I know one American psychiatrist. The first time I met him, I asked, "Do you believe that there are people, who are possessed by demons?" And he replied that he did. He's a consultant for a church in New York that deals with exorcism. They always ask for his opinion. That's the way it should work, I always ask for a person's medical history.
Do you ever just conclude that it's a medical condition?
You can ask yourself if many of the people hospitalized with mental diseases aren't actually sick, but are in fact possessed by demons. You can't treat possession with medication. Maybe the person will become docile, but there will still be demonic activity.
Why do people get possessed?
There are two reasons. The first is that you did something stupid, thereby opening the door to demonic activity. Alternative healing, new age stuff, clairvoyance, or tarot cards. That's the door to the world of the occult, and that's the world of demons. Some clairvoyants really want to help people, but are just naive. Others are just a tool for the devil. Abuse, like hash or sex, will also open the door for the devil.
Sex and hash, eh? Any other culprits?
Curses. I didn't believe it to begin with, but it's true. Many Africans are haunted by demons. I always ask them if there's anybody who hates them. If you have enemies, they will often go to a witch doctor and ask them to curse you and the devil will gladly oblige.
Surely if you curse someone you're opening the gates to Hell?
They're in collusion with the devil; they're Satan's tools. It's scary. I helped a woman who had been cursed. Doctors hadn't been able to help her. We asked God if someone had cursed her. She remembered her uncle had given her a glass of juice when she was 15 and it just so turned out that the juice had been cursed. We prayed and asked God to help her. Suddenly she went to the toilet and began to vomit violently. Ten minutes later, she told me that she had been throwing up physical objects, like nails. That's very common after curses. She spent the night throwing up, but the next day she was free of her curse.
A big part of our readers are young people—do you have any advice to them, so that they won't get possessed? Other than being vigilant with their orange juice.
They need to be careful. If they unwillingly get into a Satanic environment, they may be lost forever. Young people don't want to listen, they think they know everything and that's really dangerous. That's pride and the Devil will jump on that.