Tuesday, 30 August 2011




Peter Underwood 

Publisher: Robert Hale (1990)

Exorcism!  is an investigation of the truths and myths behind an age-old ceremony. Throughout history, the practice of exorcism has been used for the purpose of driving out evil spirits and demons thought to possess human beings and the places they inhabit. But there are more startling instances where exorcism has been used: to cure a trawler that seemed to be cursed; to expel demons from Bram Stoker's black "vampire" dog; even to rid Loch Ness and the Bermuda Trinagle of their evil ambience. Peter Underwood explores this frightening ritual in relation to witches, vampires and animals, while his far-flung researches have unearthed dramatic cases in Morocco, Egypt, South Africa and the United States, as well as the British Isles where chapter six returns to the familiar case of the Highgate Vampire. Peter Underwood explains on page 139:

"When I was researching The Vampire's Bedside Companion in 1974, Seán Manchester, president of the British Occult Society [dissolved two year's prior to the publication of Exorcism!] and something of an expert on present-day vampires was kind enough to contribute a chapter and I will paraphrase his remarkable story of the Highgate Vampire [up to and including the failed exorcism attempt in the summer of 1970]." 

The book contains a striking full-page photograph of Seán Manchester wearing a Transylvanian fur hat and accompanying Eastern European attire suitable for a cold winter's night with an array of crucifixes spread out before him.

The photograph on the dust jacket (see above) shows an exorcism in Grimsby in 1981.

Peter Underwood had been president of the Ghost Club (latterly known as the Ghost Club Society) since 1960 and has probably heard more first-hand ghost stories than any man alive. Long-standing member of the Society for Psychical Research, the British Occult Society (1860-1988) and Vampire Research Society, he had lectured, written and broadcast extensively. He took part in the first official investigation into a haunting and was present at numerous exorcisms. Peter Underwood (born 1923) sadly died in the winter of 2014.

Exorcism! offers some thought-provoking insights into a mysterious and powerful phenomenon, and the book's nine chapters covering this topic make for some fascinating reading.