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Images of the letters are found at the link below. Also included is a particularly disturbing and "demonic" letter that Berkowitz sent to his upstairs neighbor, Craig Glassman. An excerpt:

//You, Craig Glassman are truly Satan's child, and now, he wants you by his side. Come join him in death little ones.

Master Glassman, you are a man with power (the power of darkness). You are hereby ordered to onleash your terror upon the people. "Destroy all good and ruin peoples' lives. Begin immediately!"

Mighty Craig, where is your weapon. If you don't obey thes commands, the commands of you father then you will be punished. I swear, Glassman, your life will be pure Hell.

We will kill you. We will murder you. Remember, Craig that your mother the harlot the lesbian whore wants to love your so make her happy-kil some your child....//

That seems to me like pretty good thinking on your part. A combination of factors that are all real. A weak(ened) personality that was left vulnerable to the influence of evil spirits.

Berkowitz doesn't seem to be a true case of possession to me when he is compared to other reported possession cases, for example Lurancy Vennum who was possessed by Mary Rolf for a period of months. During those months Lurancy was not present in the body. I think that "Sally" was a case of possession, (contrary to mainstream views) of Clara Norton Fowler (Christine Beauchamp) a classic case of multiple personality or dissociative identity disorder as documented by Dr. Morton Prince. Neither is Berkowitz similar to Leonora Piper who was at times possessed by various entities, e.g. Phinuit and others for hours at a time over a period of many years. During the possession of Piper by these entities, Piper also was not present in the body. I acknowledge that these three examples do not represent possession by demonic spirit entities.

Does Berkowitz report periods of amnesia or loss of time when he was controlled by another entity? Or was this a case of dual possession where two entities are in control of the body at the same time?

As a thought experiment I would tend to think that Berkowitz was exactly what he seemed to be, that is, a deranged godless spirit entity in a physical form. I don't think that one has to assume that Berkowitz was born a loving 'golden boy' who as a "spoiled bully" suffered rejection and/or abuse as a teenager and was then attacked and possessed by malevolent spirits and made to set fires and kill young girls.

It may be that there is nothing that prevents an evil spirit entity from reincarnating and manifesting the same demonic forces that it manifested in a prior existence. I see all around me many many demonic people obsessed with committing evil deeds. It is unlikely that these people would shed all of their evil ways upon entering the spirit world and then reincarnate as someone else "pure as the driven snow". Some spirits succeed in learning and growing toward the light while others languish in the dark muck and mire of their lower instincts for eons. - AOD

I really don't know what is going out with these types, but a few things stand out though. They all seem to be obsessed with appearing or being superior to other people. They're always "above average intelligence" for instance. I was watching the Netflix documentary "Evil Genius," and it was interesting watching an FBI agent explaining his interview with one of these "geniuses," who made the statement: "I'm the smartest guy in the room." The FBI agent, being a normal person, saw the humor in that, and retorted how that's how it is with his wife everyday, so "no problem."

Sure these psychos are very intelligent in some ways, but also appallingly stupid in other ways - like most people. I've watched enough crime documentaries to see that over and over again, how these people, men and women, are obsessed with outwitting the cops. Gosh, get a life.

Instead of possession by demons, the Buddhists would say that these people have been taken over by their egos, destroying all of their humility and sense of proportion. I don't what Son of Sam's problem was, maybe an overbearing mother and/or rejection by pretty girls. But the sense of entitlement, the need to feel superior, greed, lack of empathy, etc., it seems to me can be explained better by Buddhist thinking than the Christian idea of possession.

A good dose of humility and a sense of humor would do wonders for these types - like it does for everyone. Just my two cents of course.

Hi Kathleen,
What you say about the massive egos of these people is true. However, their condition goes beyond narcissism. Narcissists do harm people as they act out their giant sense of entitlement and superiority. This is usually as collateral damage or, sometimes, as revenge for doubting the superiority of the narcissist. The psychopath, though, damage others for pure pleasure. Inflicting damage is the goal. It's the only thing they can enjoy. The only real pleasure they experience. This is more than a mere nuance. It is a key to the understanding of just how monstrous and weird these people are.

Eric, yes, I agree, what sets them apart is their perverse ability to take pleasure in hurting others. But I can also see that from the perspective of Buddhism - the person is making their ego - the impermanent part of their self - feel more real by causing a reaction (pain) in others and getting attention. This, along with their obsession with "outwitting the cops," seems to indicate an obsession with making the impermanent part of the self feel real. This is how I think Buddhists would see it, or at least how my understanding of Buddhism sees it. There's no need for spirits or possession to explain their behavior.

I think the problem here is that most people seek to enact the process you describe (making the impermanent ego feel more real)by engaging in more "normal" and less malevolent activities. People raise families and invest in their children, work at succeeding in a career, Bigger egos work at becoming famous -perhaps even idolized - in some way, creating monuments (could be a bridge or a building or an enduring work of art). A Buddhist may say that all of that is futile and misguided, but almost all people do it to some extent anyhow. Sometimes people become overzealous in this quest and step on the toes of others. That is unfortunate, but all too human and normal.

Thus, the psychopath, in his quest for ego glorification alone, isn't unusual - though perhaps the drive for it is on the strong end of the spectrum. What is unusual is that the psychopath seeks to achieve the goal by causing harm and achieving infamy. The psychopath knows that what his methods are totally unacceptable. He relishes acting them out anyhow. He is antisocial. He is the force that undoes what is built, what is good, what is peaceful and harmonious. Isn't that what demons are all about?

Furthermore, we are talking about a subset of psychopaths; those that kill and kill repeatedly. Most humans have a strong aversion to taking another's life. Even soldiers must be trained thoroughly, both in the use of weapons and tactics and psychologically, to do it. It must be a reflex action before thought and feeling kick in. Yet the psychopath desires to kill. He will even practice on small animals until he has worked his way up to doing it to humans. Moreover, most of these psychos aren't shooting at a uniform a hundred yards or more away with the group pressure of their comrades and the authority of superiors encouraging them. Nor is the psychopath in a kill or be kill situation. They kill innocent non-threatening people right up close and very personal, usually torturing their victims hideously.

I think the Buddhist theory you put forth kind of minimizes the extreme aberrance of what the psychopath does to feed his ego. The question as to what drives the choice of a malevolent and aberrant path to ego boosting must be examined. That is where demonic influence begins to make some sense, IMO.

Sociopathy is probably more common than we realize, and much of it is manifested within the "normal" range of human behavior.

I remember reading about the cutthroat world of bigtime stock speculators. These are people who gamble huge pots of money on fast-moving trades. They employ many deceitful tricks to trap the unwary. For instance, the "pump and dump" — buy a large quantity of stock, then talk the price up in Internet forums, creating the impression that it’s a hot property. Once the price has risen in response to this artificially inflated demand, sell all your shares for a quick profit and then watch the stock price collapse.

Of course, thousands of small investors taken in by this tactic suffer serous losses. Some are wiped out.

Most of these speculators feel no remorse when their scheme bankrupts the little guy. Some even take pleasure in it. They enjoy ruining total strangers who invested their nest egg in a stock that had been "pumped." It's part of the thrill — arguably a bigger part than making a small profit that merely adds to their already considerable wealth. They joke about "shearing the sheep." They see themselves as predators and the small investors as prey. They are winners, who deserve to grab all the assets of the losers. They are like alpha males run amok. For them, life is a jungle, and only the most ruthless deserve to survive.

This kind of sociopathy can perhaps be explained by conventional psychology. But when we look at the overtly nihilistic and "demonic" mentality of, say, the Columbine school shooters, we seem to enter a different realm. They gain nothing except their own deaths. They accomplish nothing but destruction. They are frankly and openly motivated by a loathing for human life. They aren’t seeking alpha male dominance or "king of the jungle" status. There is something primal and wantonly savage about them that goes beyond the casual ruthlessness of a stock trader or a con artist. I’m not sure this mindset can be understood without reference to pure evil, whatever its origin.

I don't by any means claim to know any of the answers to the riddle of psychopaths, this is what I tend to see over and over. As for mass murderers, a big part of their motive is to "become famous" for their terrible acts. Mixed in with this for some is seeking revenge on those they feel have "ignored" them.

I can also see the vampires on Wall Street (sorry, that's exactly how I see them), behaving in a ego-driven way - "beating" the little guy proves to them that they are "better," more "clever," cementing the false belief that they are permanent. In 2,000 years, no one will care about their clever cons, but that alludes them.

It's also interesting that brain-scanning research is indicating that psychopaths' brains are just different from normal peoples' brains. Basically, the areas that correspond to empathy don't activate. Is this because they've chosen to not be empathetic or they were just born this way? They seem to be using only the reptilian, not the mammalian aspect of their brains.

(Sorry I've been away... I know you all missed me. :) I sold my house and moved!)

Great couple of posts by Michael, and kudos to Kathleen and Eric for their thoughtful comments. Buddhism is indeed a great resource for looking at things, IMO.

I think a fairly obvious answer to this quandary is being overlooked, though not fully, since it relates to the possession hypothesis: Instead of being possessed by a particular entity, I think they are channeling negative energy.

I would warrant that a lot of people here have experienced depression. I can't speak for anyone else, but to me it certainly feels like channeling something really bad, something that has its own agenda. (Though depression is also a mighty teacher too, and not all that it does to one is "bad.")

These killers are indeed broken, almost certainly on the somatic level, and were probably born broken or at least with the potential to become permanently broken. Just like anyone with some type of permanent mental illness.

Their mental and somatic defects cause them to "tune into" lower vibrations, negative energies, etc. George Lucas's model of the "Dark Side" is not inaccurate, I think.

Further, I think there is background "junk consciousness" at the lower vibrational levels (which includes our earth in our current evolutionary stage). Thus, these vibrations and energies can, to an extent, take the form of thoughts, intentions, urges, etc. They could indeed seem to be a distinct entity or multiple entities.

I would not say that "possession" is invalid as a concept, but I think it would take different form that what we see in the case of Son of Sam. Here are my arguments against this type of case being spirit possession:

1. One would still have to explain why the possessing spirit became evil. Unless it's "turtles all the way down," then the possessing earthbound entity would have to have been "naturally" evil and not possessed itself (or at least the chain would have to be broken at some point). If it is possible to be "naturally psychopathically evil," then we would have to distinguish this from "possessed psychopathically evil." But do we really see two distinct types of such evil?

2. In general, earthbound spirits seem to have very little power and agency, so I would question their ability to possess someone consistently for decades.

3. If it were possession, then it would seem likely that there would be a certain point where the person changed radically. After all the person should become suddenly much more evil, etc., after the spirit "gets in." But we really don't seem to see that. Almost all psycho killers seem deranged and bad from an early age.

4. If we propose possession by something other than earthbound spirits, such as demons or other entities with real discipline and power, then I would refer to our somewhat recent discussion of the topic here. The key point being: What is the limiting factor? If demons can take us over, then what is stopping them from ravaging the entire world (which we do not see)? (I think a limiting factor for earthbound spirits would be their inherent weakness, but see #2 above).

Just some thoughts!

Interesting thoughts, Matt. The problem I have with the tuning-in idea is that the harasssing entities seem to be very specific, with distinct personalities and motivations. And when directly addressed through a medium or hypnotist, they can be persuaded to leave, at which point the patient's symptoms improve. Of course this could be attributed to creative invention on the part of the subconscious or psi. But the most straightforward explanation is that the entities are who they say they are.

Berkowitz may not be a true example, but the cases covered by Carl Wickland and more recent spirit-release practitioners seem consistent with spirit harassment.

I say harassment because it’s a more general term than possession. Possession involves obvious personality changes as in the Watseka Wonder case. This seems to be rare. A milder or subtler form of abuse is spirit obsession, where a spirit imposes its addictions and drives on a receptive personality without actually supplanting the victim's ego. Or the spirit may work behind the scenes to nudge the person toward one path or another (either for better or worse - there seem to be guardian angels as well as harassing "demons").

As for why negative forces don’t overwhelm the world, two points. 1) The same issue applies to the tuning-in idea. If we can channel negative energies that warp our behavior, why doesn’t everyone do it all the time? 2) It appears that only certain people are vulnerable to spirit harassment — people already weakened by addiction, mental illness, despair, or other crippling problems. In other words, only certain people open the door to these unwanted guests.

Thanks, Michael! To continue the discussion, you wrote:

||The problem I have with the tuning-in idea is that the harasssing entities seem to be very specific, with distinct personalities and motivations.||

Well, you and I are both writers, so you know how real characters can come to feel in the mind. I don't know why it would be different with the killers. They may find negative energy to be easier to process by putting it in the form of characters (i.e., functional entities), or the energies may *seek* to take that form without having underlying human ontology. It's such a murky area that I don't know if it's possible to sort out or not. By the same token, I don't think it's possible to say it's *not* related to some type of "real" being in the past or future. E.g., someone could channel the energy of John Wayne Gacy without his departed spirit (if we may assume for the moment has has not yet ascended to the higher realms) willing it to be so.

||And when directly addressed through a medium or hypnotist, they can be persuaded to leave, at which point the patient's symptoms improve. Of course this could be attributed to creative invention on the part of the subconscious or psi.||

Of course, we New Agers do interventions for psychological issues all the time, so I'm not sure that that proves anything. OTOH, has there ever been a case of such possession where the person became fully normal again? I would not expect that even to be possible in the vast majority of such cases, inasmuch as it seems that most of these guys are highly broken before becoming "possessed." But it would be interesting and more compelling if there were some cases of normal people going nuts like that and then recovering.

||But the most straightforward explanation is that the entities are who they say they are.||

I think we are in agreement that there are such things as functional entities, in which case I don't think it can be straightforward without more information.

||As for why negative forces don’t overwhelm the world, two points. 1) The same issue applies to the tuning-in idea. If we can channel negative energies that warp our behavior, why doesn’t everyone do it all the time?||

Well, depression does kind of overwhelm the world. A significant minority of the world suffers from it from time to time, if not indeed a majority. I think the saving grace is that depression (which it seems almost everyone can suffer from) and other mental illnesses that seem to involve such susceptibility (OCD, bipolar, schizophrenia) or rather the energies that can be channeled via these illnesses do not appear to be autonomous intelligences that can plan an attack on someone, otherwise I think things would be much worse than they are. (Though, to provide a counterexample, I do rather see the Nazis as a kind of vicious circle of channeling and giving further power to negative energies, almost a kind of super-structure of evil built in a subconscious fashion by humans and the energies.)

||2) It appears that only certain people are vulnerable to spirit harassment — people already weakened by addiction, mental illness, despair, or other crippling problems. In other words, only certain people open the door to these unwanted guests.||

That makes sense. Nevertheless, spirits with power and agency could try to be "smart" about whom to take over in order to inflict greater evil upon the world. One might pass up a potential serial killer to work on cracking open a politician who is actual good and not very susceptible, hoping eventually to use him or her to pull off something really big.

At the very least, we should see a spectrum of attacks. Perhaps they avoid the strongest and most moral among us, but wouldn't they take a swing now and then at those who are slightly weak? Yet I don't think we see such a psychic war taking place--unless the attacks are so subtle that they go unnoticed (i.e., the Devil whispering suggestions in our ear model). In which case, we are back to talking about limiting factors and why this constant assault by demons goes unnoticed and unreported.

(Personally, I have OCD and know what it's like to have some really unpleasant thoughts. I've never felt as though some outside force were putting these in my heads, but as a kid I was indeed told to do things [straighten my shoes, etc.] or bad things would happen to my family, etc.: classic OCD stuff. That too felt internal, not external.)

I think that everyone is vulnerable to being influenced by spirit entities. What we call "possession" is only a matter of degree. Spiritual influence on the living perhaps is more usually experienced by all of us in subtle, but nevertheless meaningful ways. Coincidence, synchrony, serendipity, luck, chance meetings and warnings might be examples of subtle positive influence by spirit entities .

Why it is that some people are more vulnerable to negative spirit influence is not known. Why is it that two people suffer similar miserable childhood experiences and one becomes a serial killer while the other one becomes a pillar of the community? Perhaps it has more to do with the incarnate spirit rather than some overshadowing, harassing or possessing spirit.

When it is said that someone is possessed it is not always meant that their body is inhabited by another entity, evil or not---daemon or angel, it just means that they are focused on the goal, good or bad and allow nothing to stand in their way of achieving that goal, Possessed people do 'bad' things, 'good' things or neutral things seemingly driven by some outside influence but it is more likely that the 'spirit influence', if any, comes from within their own conscious or subconscious mind. For those who accept the reincarnation belief system, perhaps a past life personality provides the driving force.

I too prefer the term harassment or even overshadowing as less threatening terms than possession because I think those kinds of spirit association with the living are much more common that true spirit possession such as demonstrated in the "Watseka Wonder" case. - AOD

First, congrats on your move. I hope was successful, not too stressful, and leads to positive things in your life.

IMO, there is something to your "tuning in" hypothesis. Reconciling with what Michael says (IMO also valid), when you tune in to a certain mode of thinking (vibe) you attract and - probably even - welcome various spirits, who share the vibe, to tag along with you.

Low level malevolent spirits hang out in places like seedy bars, prisons, gangster hideouts, whore houses. But why would a person at risk for possession be in one of those places so as to attract the low spirit in the first place? The person rocked the vibe at least a little, the spirit came and jumped on board, feedback loop between person and spirit and a downward spiral that could end up very badly.

A person that stays focused on the highest vibrations may attract a much better quality spirit that is beneficial, but I think that high quality spirits are too far away from the earth's pull most of the time. A person has to go to them, whereas the lowest spirits come to a person because they are already prowling about in this realm. Evil is easy.

IMO people can become vulnerable to the influence of negative spirits any time they allow their base instincts to control them. In some cases it's just bad upbringing. Parents that don't demand good manners and encourage the crude to develop in their children. Mental dullness further contributes.

You are what you are and no man is island. You're always part of a team and some members of the team are spirits. If you don't try hard, don't care, perhaps just don't know, you'll be down in the bush leagues.

Ted Bundy's lawyer has come out with an interview. Says in his opinion Ted was born evil. In 40+ years of law practice defending criminals, the only one that was born evil.

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