Samantha Harris doesn’t particularly like getting rid of demons. It gives her nightmares, makes her physically ill and provokes unexplained accidents.
But the flip side — people continuing to live with an evil spirit — is untenable as well.
“I do this solely to help people,” says Harris, 25. “They have nowhere else to turn.”
In order to help, she’s written “Fighting Malevolent Spirits,” a collection of stories of her own “house blessings” as well as DIY instructions for people who think they have mean spirits of their own.
Harris, who moved to Traverse City in March, uses herbs (white sage, sweetgrass), olive oil, salt and holy water in her house blessings and says she has a 98 percent success rate. The failures were at homes where the family didn’t follow her instructions, she says, or weren’t fully behind the process.
The blessings aren’t all sweetgrass and light, however. She’s had occasions when the “entity” has invaded her own home, where the “darkness” is so heavy it makes it hard for her to breathe or when clients have attacked, shrieking and yielding weapons.
And yet, Harris continues.
“I used to not believe in this stuff,” she admits, “and now I kind of specialize in demonology and get the worst-case scenarios.”
When Harris first hears from a potential customer — who either finds her through her website, via word-of-mouth or from one of her appearances on TV (which aired on the Travel Channel and Discovery Channel’s Destination America) — she confers on the phone with them for an hour or two, both to gauge their sanity and to calculate the severity of the haunting. Most of her callers are not mentally ill, she says, although almost all have some kind of dysfunction, ranging from alcoholism to sexual abuse.
“Any negativity in a natural situation creates an opening,” Harris says, “and makes it easier for entities to attach themselves.”
The first call is almost a “mini psych evaluation,” Harris says, and includes asking about prescription drug use, to see if the “haunting” is a result of side effects or asking if the sound in the attic could possibly be a raccoon. But “90 percent are genuine hauntings.”
Harris herself has also had psychology evaluations, specifically when she was diagnosed with dyscalculia, a condition like dyslexia except with numbers. She’s passed them all. She’s a 2011 graduate of Michigan State with a degree in communications and runs her own wedding photography and videography business.
The “gift” (“or maybe it’s a curse,” Harris laughs) has been passed down on her mother’s side of the family, she says. “Every female is intuitive,” Harris says, but “we don’t use it. It’s like a muscle.” Her own premonitions started in grade school, when she dreamt about her grandmother’s beloved dog dying. She also was able to predict what was in wrapped presents and took a picture with an unexplained figure in it at summer camp on Burt Lake. She then began reading everything she could find.
Between graduation from Dexter High School and her freshman year at Central Michigan University, she helped a boyfriend’s family with an entity. It gave her the confidence to learn more about house blessings. She has since come up with her own materials and prayers, which are directed to a nondenominational spirit.
She doesn’t belong to an organized religion but says she works for God.
“She’s a very spiritual soul,” says her mother, Michelle Harris, 60. “She believes in God. God is much bigger than any one religion.”
Michelle Harris also has a “gift” and remembers knowing ahead of time what day her grandfather would die (“It was horrible”) and who was calling on the phone. When she was quite young, her grandmother asked her if she heard things other kids didn’t, then told her how to deal with it, Michelle Harris says.
“She told me to ask the spirits to leave — and they do!” says Michelle Harris. “She told me to call on God.”
Skeptics abound, of course, equally from religion and science, Samantha Harris says. She welcomes them.
“Skepticism is often given token lip service,” writes Sharon Hill for the Center for Inquiry, a national group of skeptics. “Several ARIGs (amateur research and investigation groups) say they welcome skeptics. However, what open-minded skepticism really means to them is that one is open to the paranormal conclusion as the correct conclusion.”
Hill goes on to say that, because “only certain gifted individuals can ‘sense’ the spirit present or communicate with the entity, the nongifted cannot confirm or deny such an observation.” Despite science having considered and rejected the existence of ghosts, the public still embraces the idea, Hill writes.
Michelle Harris says her daughter gets hate mail telling her she is working for the devil, among other things, and that having these powers has been hard on their personal lives as well. Samantha had a four-year relationship that broke up and Michelle is going through a divorce with her husband of 40- plus years.
“It does exact a toll,” Michelle Harris says.
Samantha Harris will visit Horizon Books in Traverse City for a book signing to coincide with Halloween on October 25 at 3p.m. For more information and other events, go to www.michiganpra.com.