Did you hear that? I hope it’s not a demon!
According to paranormal folklore, demonic infestations and possessions are often preceded by a number of strange signs. These range from inexplicable noises to less savory occurrences such as guttural growling and bad smells.
First, though, let’s consider what exactly a demon is (or at least what they’re said to be).
At their most basic, demons are malevolent supernatural entities. The word “demon” itself dates back to Ancient Greece and the word “daimon,” which described lesser deities or spirits, usually ones that personified concepts. These were not viewed in the negative light that our modern conception of demons casts them in.
Later, such as in the New Testament, demons would take on the devilish form we’re more used to seeing. Matthew 8:28-34:
“‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'” – Matthew 8:29
Demons are mostly known for their ability to possess individuals, thanks in no small part to popular culture and classic horror films like 1973’s The Exorcist. In that film (based on the novel of the same name), the demon Pazuzu possesses a young girl named Regan, leading to a confrontation between the demon and a duo of priests. However, before demonic possession occurs, many stages are said to be involved. Demonic oppression is one of them.
That is to say, there are stories of such events. As with most things of this nature, it’s up to you whether or not you choose to believe any of this. Here are some of the reported causes for demonic oppression I’ve come across:
- Dealing with the occult or practicing black magic.
- Using a Ouija board. Some believe Ouija boards and other occult instruments may invite negative entities into our world, or at the very least open doorways most would rather leave closed. This is the reason many warn against using them at all. One of the best known examples of this is the alleged demon Zozo. You know what they say: If Zozo comes knocking, well, that’s no good.
- Summoning a demon. Yes, people attempt this sometimes, and if stories are to be believed, it does what it says on the box. Probably not something you should try at home.
- Negative energy. Some say that stress and negative emotions may catch the attention of a demon and perhaps allow it an easy route into your life.
These might be reasons why a demon would decide to bunk with you. But now, let’s explore some of the alleged signs of a demonic infestation. The things you should, perhaps, watch out for.
The sound of a demon is said to be guttural, a harsh growling unlike anything an ordinary animal would produce. This may occur in specific spots, such as closets or hallways. You may even hear strained words or disembodied voices over your shoulder, asking you questions, or threatening you in some way.
Other sounds may occur, as well, including banging, stomping, or scratching on walls. In some cases, people have reported hearing three unexplained knocks in a row — a number that is allegedly repeated by demons in various ways as a mockery of the Holy Trinity.
Scared Pets & Animals
Many believe dogs, cats, and other animals can see ghosts, your pets included. When a dog starts barking at empty air, he or she may have witnessed a passing spirit. But you also have those cases when the animal is afraid – terrified, even – growling or hissing at an unseen force hidden from human eyes.
Your pet may begin acting aggressively for no apparent reason, and there are even some cases in which a pet has reportedly fallen ill during a demonic attack.
In his book True Tales of the Ouija Board, Stephen Wagner relates one such incident, during which a group of girls were “playing” with a Ouija board. All was well, until they contacted a spirit that unexpectedly mentioned their dogs. When they asked the spirit what it meant, it simply replied, “You’ll see.”
Not long after, the girls heard their dogs screaming outside. They later found a mysterious burn mark on one of them.
Sightings of so-called shadow people may be an indication that a demon is present. In some cases, the shadows take humanoid forms, but they’ve also appeared as animals, or even simple amorphous blobs that don’t resemble anything at all. You may encounter brief glimpses just outside your vision, or they may appear as full shadows.
The Demon in the Chair
One case of a potential demon involving a shadow person sighting was reported by a Reddit user in March of 2017 (unfortunately, the original post is no longer available).
While spending the night at her grandparents’ house during a sleepover when she was very young, the witness was shocked awake, only to glimpse a dark silhouette in a chair on the other side of the room. It was awkwardly positioned, sideways, with its arms holding its legs up to its chest.
Having learned about Christianity from her parents, at first she thought it could be Jesus, or some other positive entity. But just as she thought that name, the shadowy figure lurched up out of the chair – faster than anything humanly could – and approached her. The figure watched her, and then began doing something very odd, indeed: It started scratching at its own calves, tearing at its own flesh. If it even had any.
The witness tried to calm down, and eventually fell back to sleep, if it could be called sleep. According to her account, it was as though time had warped in some way. She woke up the next morning, but not before she felt a strange breath upon her ear.
This encounter with a shadow person upon waking may be related to our next potential sign…
Dreams are interesting things. They can tell us a lot about who we are, and what our subconscious minds are really thinking. They can also, perhaps, act as windows into a world just beyond our own.
But that’s not always a world we want to enter.
Many have reported having strange and terrible dreams that accompany the unexplained activity in their homes during a haunting, particularly those involving demons. In 2016, for example, another Reddit user posted his experience with what he believed was such a demon. It was in early October, and he’d just gone to sleep after a very tiring day.
That’s when he had what he described as “the worst dream [he] would ever experience in [his] life.” It involved something indiscernible but horrifying. It hovered over his bed, glaring down at him with a “disgusted look,” whispering something he couldn’t quite make out.
The dream ended with him waking up hours later, exhausted and sweating. He went out for a walk to clear his head. But when he returned, he found his door wide open – and that was only the beginning of his demonic experience. He’d go on to witness many of the signs on this list: the loud bangs, the shadows, and even two red eyes staring back at him in the darkness.
There are many other cases of people believed to be suffering from demonic oppression who also experience sleep paralysis, or waking up to the sight of dark figures in their room and a terrible smell.
However, demonic dreams don’t necessarily have to involve actual encounters with demons. They may be apocalyptic in nature, visions of terrible events, or vivid lucid dreams of horrific experiences.
Damage to Religious Symbols
According to many tales out there, demons don’t take kindly to holy symbols. They may attempt to get rid of crucifixes, Bibles, rosaries, or other religious artifacts. They may damage anything they view as a threat against their presence.
In practice, for example, you may witness a hanging crucifix knocked off the wall.
The Smell of Demons
One of the most common signs of a demonic infestation I’ve come across is a terrible, putrid smell. The scent of decomposition, or rotting eggs (sulfur). The scent of death.
One idea I’ve come upon is that the sulfur smell is actually a reaction demons, or other negative entities, have to divinity. This smell occurs, some say, when the demon is upset, or when the area they are inhabiting has been blessed or cleansed. It’s certainly a compelling hypothesis!
The smell of ghosts is said to often be something familiar, such as perfume or a certain brand of cigar. In other words, non-offensive. A demonic smell, in contrast, may be pungent, and remind you of rotten things: garbage, spoiled food, rotting meat. Things you’d rather avoid!
A Case of Bad Luck
Negative entities are said to sometimes attach themselves to people, draining them of their energy. This causes all sorts of unexplained feelings, including drained emotions, mood swings, and even bad luck.
Consider the Book of Job in the Old Testament, in which Job suffered torment at the hands of demons as a test of faith. This included what, to the outside observer, would have appeared as a period of excessively terrible luck.
Visits By “Friendly” Ghosts & Spirits
Demons are said to be deceptive.
Many, many people warn against the use of Ouija boards, or other tools of divination or spirit communication. This is because they believe that, oftentimes, any spirits that appear “friendly,” or are claiming to be deceased family members, are very likely demons lying to you.
They’re telling you what you want to hear, making it easier to lower your defenses and take control.
This can be seen in reports of the aforementioned demon Zozo, a fiend that seemingly enjoys pretending to be familiar spirits contacting users of the Ouija board. But sooner or later, the Ouija Demon reveals itself as the malevolent force it is, causing havoc in the lives of anyone who dares test it. There are many stories of the demon Zozo allegedly “following” Ouija users long after they’ve put the planchette away!
Physical and Psychological Disturbances
Have you ever been scratched by an otherworldly force? A spiritual attack is said to occur when the victim experiences such things without any ordinary explanation. They may happen anywhere, or even on objects within the house – tiny, mysterious scratches that seem to defy all rationality.
In the case of a demon, like the aforementioned knocking sounds, three scratch or claw marks are said to serve as a mockery of the Holy Trinity. But scratches aren’t the only sign related to spiritual attacks: A person may feel odd sensations, like he or she is being watched. Feelings of unease, as well. The goal, it would seem, is to wear a person down to make possession easier.
Together, all of the above signs may be part of what is known as demonic oppression.
Possession, on the other hand, is a topic in and of itself. The end result of everything that came before.
A demon’s presence in the home, or attachment to a “haunted” object, may very well be a precursor to demonic possession. After all, there would be little point in a demon bothering a human if they didn’t want something out of it. And what is that?
In the famous (or infamous) story of Annabelle, when Ed and Lorraine Warren first visited the two women and their curious Raggedy Ann doll, they say they knew immediately what they were dealing with: a demonic attachment.
The demon, they said, was only pretending to be the spirit of a young girl attached to the doll, but in reality it was attempting to be welcomed and accepted into their lives, after which it planned to possess one of them. The Warrens referred to this process as “Invitation, Obsession, Infestation, Oppression, and Possession.”
Whether or not you believe the tale of Annabelle to be true, it serves as a fairly straightforward example of how a demon may try to worm its way into your life, and set up shop, at least according to common folklore.
Updated May 5, 2023